VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Dominion Energy, Sentara, TowneBank and other large corporations could soon be partnering to aid with the ongoing effort to revitalize the area in and around the Virginia Beach Oceanfront resort.
The idea, known as the “B-4 Conservancy,” was first floated to Virginia Beach City Council in their retreat Tuesday morning by Councilman Guy Tower and Councilman John Moss.
B-4, standing for “Believe, Bring, Build and Become,” aims at changing the “socioeconomic environment and the physical environment of our Region’s front door” according to City Council materials.
Under the plan, a nonprofit would be formed and governed by corporate partners and philanthropists. The conservancy would take in private funds from the big businesses, and turn them around to pay for social and educational investments in the resort and surrounding communities.
Last August, resort business owners claimed a “loss of pride” was threatening everyone’s bottom line at the city’s economic engine. Part of the blame was placed on “intimidating crowds,” gun violence, neglected infrastructure and reduced oversight.
Tower said surrounding communities make up some of the poorest in the entire city. He hopes getting corporations involved that are interested in charity work could be the key to help turn the tide.
“There are a lot of neighborhoods and areas that need help. They need various kinds of help,” Tower said. “Education, healthcare assistance, etc.”
In addition, the conservancy would approve an annual budget to address “major” capital improvements, such as working to remove blighted properties.
“We’ve got some trailer parks that frankly need to go away. We have to find a way to encourage redevelopment of those. Find housing for those people that is better than that in that area,” Tower said, referring to property off Virginia Beach Boulevard near the sports center.
Tower said City Council gave initial consensus to allow the city manager to provide staff to complete a feasibility study on the concept, “seeing if it might work here.”
Previous attempts at launching programs aimed at bettering the community haven’t all worked out, such as “Listen, Learn, Love VB,” which never quite got off the ground.
Another part of the “B-4” proposal includes forming a 501(c)(6) that aims at addressing infrastructure improvements in the city.
“We’re talking about aging infrastructure that needs to be replaced and needs a corporate vision that the city may not have,” Tower said. “What hotel is worth redeveloping as a building in its own. And which ones would be better to knock it down make some vistas and we can all see the ocean again. Something like that.”
More private money involved in resort projects could help free up money in the city’s budget to devote to more city-wide priorities like flooding and stormwater, per Tower.
However, pushback from longtime resort business owners has stalled that component for now.
Tower said none of this is meant to replace large investments recently made in the resort area.
Last year, the city approved spending more than $1.2 million to relaunch the Resort Management Office. The majority of the money went towards hiring, Kentucky-based Block by Block, to run the resort ambassador program.
“No plans to change that at all. Doing well, doing what it’s supposed to do,” Tower said. “This is trying to look at projects on a more holistic basis rather than ‘Do this, fix this, infill that.'”