Chesapeake Planning Commission changes course, approves plan for gambling and entertainment complex at former Greenbrier Sears


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — After previously recommending the project be denied, the Chesapeake Planning Commission switched course Wednesday night and voted to approve the proposed development of a gambling parlor, hotel and entertainment complex at the former Greenbrier Mall Sears.

The 4-3 vote followed dozens of speakers both for and against the plan, which has already been debated three times before in front of the members.

Seritage Growth Properties submitted plans last year that called for the former Sears department store and parking lot at Greenbrier Mall to be home to Hampton Roads’ second Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, a bowling alley, brewery, a four-story hotel and 23,000 square feet in new restaurant space.

It’s an $80-million project expected to add 500 jobs in the area, according to developers.

In June, the commission voted to recommend denial of the application over concerns about increased traffic and questions whether gambling would be “the right fit.”

However, before the proposal was heard by City Council, which reserves ultimate say in the matter, the development team offered up $15 million for local traffic improvements in the area. Under city code, that required the Planning Commission to weigh in again.

“We are committed to the project and financially supporting roadway improvements,” said Mark Hubbard, a spokesperson for the Colonial Downs Group, which would operate the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium at the site. “We believe the project has significant community support and we are hoping to move it forward.”

Under the approved plan, Colonial Downs would spend $500,000 to conduct a traffic study within a year of City Council approval. It would then contribute $3.6 million annually for four years to help with any roadway improvements.

A traffic study found upwards of 11,600 vehicles per day could head to the site. Two intersections that currently operate at “E” grade levels (Greenbrier Parkway/Crossways Boulevard and Greenbrier Parkway/Eden Way) would operate at “F” levels — a worse grade for an intersection — with the new development, the city staff report finds.

Several planning commissioners who previously voted to deny the application switched their votes Wednesday.

Commissioner Marc Steiner said testimony, which included a Richmond City Council member, showed that Rosie’s was a good corporate citizen that came in to “lift people up.”

Commission Chair Hollis Ellis and Commissioner Marty Williams both abstained, saying opportunities to possibly work with the developers in the future had presented themselves.

City Council is expected to hear the proposal in September.

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