VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The transformation to the parking lot between 18th and 20th streets at the Oceanfront is back on track.
The site of the former dome is something Virginia Beach country singer Rodger Adams has fond memories of. He said his band Virginia Fire Band was one of the last acts before it was torn down more than two decades ago.
“It was a great place,” said Adams. “There was all kinds of musical events there, different bands played from the old days. Back in the mid-80s, I played the last concert.”
Virginia Beach leaders are hoping to bring those good times back by making the plot of land into a year-round destination known as Atlantic Park.
“One of the things I think we're trying to do as a city is to take the city to the next level,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer.
City leaders proposed amendments to the plan Tuesday night, moving the entertainment venue phase of the project forward with an opening date set for 2024.
The entire project is expected to be completed in 2023. It’s had four and a half years of setbacks.
The city is also trying to move forward after last month’s comments from Virginia Beach native and music producer Pharrell Williams when he described city leadership as “toxic.”
Pharell then pulled the plug on the Something in the Water music festival, leaving a black eye on the city.
“I think if we can prove that we are open for business, that we have the capacity to get these deals done…one thing Something in the Water proved, if people have things to do, that's a good thing with a variety of entertainment, and just welcoming people out there,” Mayor Dyer said.
Despite the fallout, Atlantic Park’s developer Venture Realty Group said Pharrell remains committed to seeing this project through to the end.
Mike Culpepper, the managing partner of Venture Realty Group stopped short of saying if the entertainer is obligated by contract.
“He’s a partner and so we've certainly handled all the legalities with Pharrell Williams, but we're not at liberty to say what is the specific contractual relationships; that's all subject to confidentiality,” Culpepper said.
Differences aside, many say they’re excited to soon see new life breathed into the Oceanfront. Roger Adams, who’s lived in the city all his life, said a concert venue is something that can bring people from all backgrounds together.
“Virginia Beach is my hometown and I love it,” Adams said. “I love watching it grow and I think the opportunity for us to do something on that site would be outstanding.”
The project also calls for a surf park, retail, homes, and office space. The total cost of the project is estimated at $325 million.
The developer is hoping to break ground this spring.
City council leaders will meet again next Tuesday, November 16, so the public can weigh in.