VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - If you live in Virginia Beach, you're going to help pay for the Cavalier Hotel restoration and new construction.
City council members voted 7-1 Tuesday in favor of spending $18 million in public money on the project.
Sitting high up on the hill in the North End of Virginia Beach, the old Cavalier Hotel has waited decades for a facelift. But its new owner, Bruce Thompson and his company Gold Key PHR, told city council he needs some public money to make it happen.
Thompson will put $259 million into the project to restore the old Hotel and create a hip new hotel on the other side of the street.
Taxpayers will contribute $18 million in the form of incentives.
"It's a very good business deal," said Mayor Will Sessoms. "There is going to be a tremendous amount of private investment made in comparison to the public investment."
Mayor Sessoms says tax credits, grants and money already set aside for economic development will pay for $13 million up front. Thompson will get the other $5 million in real estate tax rebates over time.
And though the project seems to have overwhelming support from council, skeptics voiced their concerns before the vote.
"I would like all of you to consider the families who call that place home and plan on retiring there before you decide to do something with that area," said one citizen, who was concerned the project will include his front yard on Cavalier Drive.
Others were opposed to spending taxpayer dollars on the project, unless it includes everyone.
"I and many others aren't saying no to preservation," said one citizen. "The question is at what cost?"
Preservation is a big concern. Many would like to see the old hotel on the national historic registry. Thompson has said publicly that is part of his vision for the old, iconic Beach landmark.
"We're saving a great icon," said Mayor Sessoms. "We're saving a great piece of history in the city of Virginia Beach."
The council vote was 7-1. Councilman John Moss was not in attendance. Mayor Will Sessoms and Councilman Bill DeSteph chose to abstain from voting because of financial ties.
The one dissenter was Councilman Bobby Dyer who said he voted against it because of his long standing principles about public private partnerships.
Developer Bruce Thompson will officially close on the property later this month. He hopes new construction and improvements will begin before the end of the year.
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