VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach will be looking for ideas from developers on what can be done with what’s been dubbed “the most spectacular place undeveloped on the East Coast”: Rudee Loop.
On Tuesday, Virginia Beach City Council gave the go-ahead for the city to put out a 60-day request for information and ideas for a nearly 11-acre piece of land at the south of the resort area.
The majority of the property has been in city control since 2004, when nearly $7 million was spent to buy the property of longtime Lighthouse Restaurant. At the time, City Council documents stated the property was “a prime location for a flagship hotel chain to aid in the development of a convention facility at the Oceanfront.”
While many proposals have come since, nothing has ever been done — and Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson says after years of putting on the back-burner, it’s time for that to change.
“It’s time. Atlantic Park is getting ready to get moving and we’ve really checked off all those boxes of the things we’ve wanted to do,” Wilson said.
However, in recent years the idea of doing anything has become controversial.
A #SaveRudeeLoop hashtag was started in 2019 when rumors began to circulate that development was being planned. Rudee Loop was identified as the top priority for green space in a public survey and a resort plan workshop, however, developers continue to have their eyes on the parcel as well.
Pro Football Hall of Fame member Bruce Smith submitted a proposal to develop hotels, restaurants, condos and shops on the site in late 2019.
So far, no action has been taken on his idea.
Mayor Bobby Dyer said this is a chance to start fresh.
“A fair process that’s fair not only to the members of this council. But you know the people that may have an interest in this,” Dyer said, adding that public comment would be taken on whatever is submitted.
Public-private partnerships within the city have often turned divisive, over the clashing of different personalities and accusations of favoritism.
After a previous proposal by Smith for Rudee Loop failed to gain support in 2014, Smith — who is Black — called for the launch of a disparity study, claiming his development proposals were being excluded on the basis of race.
Longtime Virginia Beach Councilman and former Mayor Louis Jones said he thinks the council needs to “make up our mind” on what they want for the site before wasting developers’ time. He mentioned hiring a consultant to study the property might be a better idea.
However, Wilson said some discussion needed to happen no matter what, as the condition of the Loop had fallen into disrepair.
“It’s the most spectacular? It is the most unspectacular place because it’s in terrible condition,” Wilson said.
Councilman John Moss, a longtime critic of any public-private project, was the only one who opposed moving forward.
“I am not voting for any idea that doesn’t make it all a park, unless the public tells us in an advisory referendum that that’s what they want,” Moss said.