BY JULIE TAYLOR
COURTHOUSE – Atlantic Park, the $325 million mixed-use development project planned for the former Dome site, is one step closer to becoming reality.
The Virginia Beach City Council unanimously approved the development agreement for the roughly 10-acre site during its Tuesday, Nov. 19, meeting at City Hall.
The city is hoping that redeveloping the Dome site will help revitalize the Oceanfront and make Virginia Beach a year-round tourist destination.
Plans for the site include a wave park, which will be capable of producing waves designed for both beginning and experienced surfers, at a speed of up to 1,000 waves an hour. The site will also feature a 3,500 seat entertainment venue and over 400 apartments, as well as restaurants, retail stores, and office space.
The City Council approved the development agreement by a 10-0 vote. Councilmember John Moss, who holds an at-large seat, abstained from voting due to investments in companies that could potentially benefit from the project.
The property is being developed by Venture Realty Group, a Virginia Beach-based real estate company, in partnership with Pharrell Williams and a team of other businesses. Williams has been very involved in the project, even attending a recent City Council meeting to speak in favor of it.
The project is the largest public-private partnership in the history of Virginia Beach. The city will be providing $95 million in funding. The rest of the funds, approximately $230 million, will come from private investors.
The city plans to pay off the debt incurred by the project by using revenue collected through the Tourism Improvement Program, or TIP fund, which receives a portion of the hotel, restaurant and amusement taxes paid in the city. No revenue from the general fund would be used.
Much of the money that the city is contributing will go toward building structured parking. Atlantic Park’s current design plan includes parking garages large enough to park a combined total of nearly 2,000 cars. City funds will also be used for street improvements and for the construction of the entertainment venue.
The project now enters a nine-month “due diligence” stage. During this stage, the developers will secure financing and submit zoning applications, while the city will acquire any additional land that is needed.
Construction is not expected to start for another two years. Venture Realty expects Atlantic Park to be fully operational in approximately five years.
When Atlantic Park is completed, it is expected to annually produce about $8.2 million of tax revenue for the city. An estimated $1.9 million of that will go to Virginia Beach Public Schools, while the TIP fund will receive $3.5 million. The remaining $2.8 million will go to the general fund.
A separate ordinance passed during the Nov. 19 meeting mandates that 25 percent of the revenue that Atlantic Park generates for the general fund will be earmarked for stormwater maintenance.
The ordinance was introduced by City Councilmember Jessica Abbott, who represents the Kempsville District. Abbott had previously voted no on a non-binding term sheet for the development agreement, partly because it did not specify that any of the revenue would be used for stormwater management projects.
Before the vote, Abbott discussed the excitement that the project has generated in the Virginia Beach community.
“In all honesty, everywhere I went people asked me to support this project,” Abbott said.
While the plan to redevelop the Dome site has support, some residents have voiced their concerns about public funds being used for the project.
Additionally, many resort area residents are worried that there will not be adequate parking available, particularly during the construction process.
Mike Culpepper, a managing partner at Venture Realty Group, said that Venture is aware of community members’ concerns, and that the company is committed to making Atlantic Park an attraction that will positively impact Virginia Beach residents.
“This isn’t about a surf park, or an entertainment venue,” Culpepper said. “It’s about making our city better.”
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