NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Pharrell Williams said he has been in direct talks with two national sports leagues about the possibility of bringing a franchise to Norfolk, in the hope the city will choose his development team to repurpose Military Circle Mall.
Williams made the comments early Saturday afternoon after helping to pitch “Wellness Circle” to Norfolk City Council.
Williams is part of one of the three teams vying to redevelop the 70-plus acre longtime regional shopping mall into a “mixed-use community” and “walkable neighborhood.”
His proposal includes the construction of 1,000-plus housing units, a 200-room hotel, a YELLOW school (Williams’ non-profit), medical offices and lots of green space surrounded by a 1-mile pedestrian trail, all anchored by a 15,000 seat plus arena.
“It’s going to be like the heartbeat of the state of Virginia,” Williams said.
Williams is joined by more than two-dozen other partners including Virginia Beach-based Venture Realty — which is the lead developer on the Atlantic Park project. Williams is also a partner in — Armada Hoffler Properties, Oak View Group and Live Nation.
Williams said he is confident the arena will work, even though a previous attempt to build one in Virginia Beach failed.
Before the deal near the Oceanfront went belly up, it was rumored the Sacramento Kings would consider a move to the 757.
“Who wouldn’t want to have a franchise here in Norfolk,” Williams said. “We have been talking to two national leagues for franchises. Conversations I can’t really get into right now, but it looks very good.”
He said regardless the arena itself will be fully functional, as Live Nation is the world’s largest entertainment company, responsible for 85% of the tours in the U.S.
The arena would be designed by Sir David Adjaye, who designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
“Mass timber technology is the technology of the 21st century,” Adjaye said Saturday. “We are moving away from steel and reducing our concrete footprint because we want an architecture that gives back, which absorbs CO2 which gives back a much healthy environment and stimulates all the citizens of the community to really more.”
Williams described the whole project as a beehive where those from all economic backgrounds can live, learn, work and play together.
His proposal asks for about $332 million of the $1.1 billion projects to be publicly funded through project revenues and the creation of a Community Development Authority.
Development teams led by NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and prominent local hotelier Bruce Thompson are also looking to redevelop the property. They made their cases to City Council earlier in the week.
Following the presentation, City Council went into a closed session to discuss the three proposals. The next step in the process is for city staff to make a formal recommendation to the City Council and Development Authority.
Economic Development Director Jared Chalk says he hopes that happens by late spring.
“On the other side of this decision is untapped potential,” Williams told council members, adding he wants this to be a model community. “We nail this, we are going to scale this. I think Norfolk should be the first.”