Friday, December 8, 2023

‘The Wave’ project appears to be rolling into the Oceanfront

VIRGINIA BEACH — New details of an extensive mixed-use development at the Oceanfront’s former Dome site emerged Wednesday, as Deputy City Manager Ron Williams released the term sheet for the project and briefed the media on the city’s funding of the project.

Williams said the project has the potential to be “transformative” at the Oceanfront, and the production of a term sheet between the city and the developer, Venture Realty Group, is the farthest the city has progressed on any Dome Site development since the city first attempted to develop the site more than 30 years ago.

The Dome was a concert venue on 19th Street that was demolished in 1994.

The mixed-use development of the site — consisting of the Wavegarden Surf Park, a 3,500-seat live entertainment venue, retail spaces, as well as hundreds of residential units — won’t come cheap. Under conditions of the term sheet, the city is poised to invest more than $200 million in taxpayer money for the project over the next two decades.

That includes $95 million to construct the entertainment venue, three parking garages, streetscapes, walkways, and other common spaces.

Related story: Virginia Beach seeks public input on Entertainment District projects

Williams repeatedly said no general funds will be spent on the Dome Site Development.

“This will all be paid for using only TIP funds,” Williams said, referring to the city’s Tourism Improvement Program.

TIP money is comprised of taxes typically generated by tourists and is designed specifically for construction and improvements of tourism-related facilities.

Separate from the infrastructure, the city will also pay annual performance incentives to Venture if they meet certain tax revenue expectations. The city will also contribute grant money to Venture through the state’s Tourism Development Financing Program.  Representatives from Venture were not immediately available for comment.

The incentives and grants could total up to $5 million annually, to be paid to Venture for up to 20 years — which could add $100 million to taxpayers’ tab — bringing the total possible taxpayer investment to approximately $200 million.

Williams said construction could bring upwards of 1,000 temporary jobs, while the development itself could generate hundreds of permanent hospitality positions at the Oceanfront.

The development isn’t the first project that City Council has considered for the Dome Site.

In 1985, an $11 million transit center was proposed for the site, but City Council rejected it, according to the city’s website. In 1993, a Civil War-themed dinner-theater called “Dixie Stampede” was proposed, but then abandoned after opposition from civic leaders.

The Wave deal isn’t complete just yet. The Virginia Beach Development Authority will vote on the proposal Jan. 15. City Council will hold a public hearing and vote on the term sheet Jan. 15 as well. A development agreement would need to be negotiated, Williams said, and voted on before everything is a done deal.

Williams said the city has also been in discussions with Dominion Energy for the last 18 months about moving its Oceanfront substation on 18th Street between Arctic and Pacific — right in the middle of the city’s proposed entertainment district. The city also needs to purchase a parking lot from Virginia Beach United Methodist Church and provide them with parking alternatives, Williams said.

Despite those challenges, Williams said he was “bullish” the former Dome site will be developed this time around.

“In an ideal world we could be breaking ground on this in 2020,” Williams said.

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