CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The vacant Sears at Greenbrier Mall will stay that way for the near future. A developer has withdrawn plans to turn the sprawling former department store into a gambling parlor, hotel and entertainment complex.
Chesapeake City Council was slated to vote on the controversial proposal this Tuesday after the idea was debated for months in front of the Planning Commission. However, within the last two weeks, the property owner, Seritage Growth Properties, notified city staff they no longer would be looking to move forward.
From the get-go city, planners warned the development would likely result in a significant increase in traffic in the area. As result — the Colonial Downs Group that hoped to open a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium on the ground floor — offered up $15 million for road improvements in the area.
That was enough to win over the Planning Commission, but Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said he doesn’t think it was enough for council.
“I just don’t think they would have had the votes,” West said Monday. “I ended up not being able to support it.”
West said while the money for road improvements was a “generous offer,” he ultimately thinks the plan to bring gambling to the mall property was “not the right fit.”
Across the country, indoor shopping malls have suffered in recent years — and the pandemic has only increased those problems. While supporters of the plan framed it as one of the ways to “save Greenbrier Mall,” West thinks it could be a solution that causes another problem if it doesn’t work.
“Greenbrier Mall is a prime location in Hampton Roads. I think there may be other opportunities down the road for that location. The Rosie’s would get in the way of bigger and better ideas,” West said.
The $80-million project was expected to add 500 jobs in the area, according to developers. While Seritage Growth Properties was not immediately available for comment, a representative from Colonial Downs says they are still looking to have a presence in Chesapeake.
“We have been working for over a year to determine the best possible location for a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in the city of Chesapeake,” said Aaron Gomes, chief operating officer of the Colonial Downs Group. “Over the course of that work, we have determined that another site may prove optimal for our facility, and we are now transitioning to a comprehensive review of this new location. We will have further comment regarding this matter and our next steps at the appropriate time.”
This will be the third site Rosie’s has considered in the city. Plans for 700 historic horse racing gambling machines, satellite horse race wagering and a bar and restaurant off Rainbow Lane near Battlefield Boulevard were scrapped in 2019.
Rosie’s already has a location in Hampton, which opened last year. Gaming is also heavily on the mind of the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk which are hoping voters will approve the operation of resort casinos there.