VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Virginia Beach developer Bruce Thompson told city council Tuesday he will restore the old Cavalier Hotel and redevelop its sister properties.
Thompson, CEO of Gold Key/PHR Hotels and Resorts, is working on the project with East Beach developer Bart Frye. A judge approved the $35 million sale of the Cavalier Hotel Monday.
Beach residents had serious concerns Thompson would tear down the historic landmark, but Tuesday he pledged to restore it with the help of city incentives and historic tax credits. Thompson says a 3,000 page review of the structure revealed a minimum restoration cost of $40 million.
"It's personal as well as economic for us," said Thompson, after the council presentation. "Me and my partners have many memories of being in the old hotel, and it presents an opportunity for us to give back to the community and preserve a community asset."
During the presentation, Thompson called the old hotel's condition "absolutely horrific" from years of "non-repair and non-use."
"It's in bad shape," said Thompson. "You all are welcome to look at the report but its in very, very bad condition."
To offset the costs, Thompson plans to build about 100 weekend cottages around it. The cottages will create a new upscale community on both sides of the old hotel and behind it.
Thompson's vision is to make the old hotel a five star experience. He plans to keep the great lawn and make it a premier destination for weddings and other events.
Across the street is a different story. On the Oceanfront property, Thompson envisions a "hip" environment, with an East Beach feel. He says the structure of the 'new' Cavalier Hotel is sound, but he might rebuild because it's not in the best location.
"It's vertical to the Oceanfront and about 100 feet south, so the property to the north of it is not being utilized to its fullest potential," he said.
Thompson may build another hotel tower on the Oceanfront side. He envisions the hotels will be franchised, complete with a pool complex and boutique feel. He says his company has the ability to build time shares, if need be.
And, in a move that surprised some, Thompson announced plans to keep the famed Beach Club, at least for now.
"Of all the things I have owned, I can't think of anything more challenging or more rewarding than this," said Thompson.
Gold Key could break ground by the end of the year. The total investment is estimated at $200 million with $35 million paid up front. Municipal investment and historic tax credits are keys to success, says Thompson, who plans to put the building on the national historic registry.
WAVY.com spoke to Mayor Will Sessoms about the city's role in helping to preserve the hotel.
"We had a resolution that the city would step up and try to make this happen," said Sessoms. "Right now we're in negotiations and I would hope that in the next day or two we'll have something firmed up, and we can take it to the public and get the public's input."
City council members held a closed session Tuesday to discuss business terms and city incentives for the project. The Mayor says they'll do everything possible to see this project through.
"It's an icon. I have the pleasure of going by it every day and I'll tell you the last year or so thinking about it not being there has been quite disturbing to me," said Sessoms.
Public presentations will be held before the final vote July 2.
Norfolk Police are investigating the cause of death for male found unconscious on the beach.
The Hampton Police Division needs help identifying the suspect in a motel robbery early Monday morning.
To ease holiday mailing, the Richmond District of the U.S. Postal Service is extending its Saturday window hours.