VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Why should tourists come to Virginia Beach?
We found that answer down at the newly re-established Resort Management Office, which is the biggest organizational change from last year.
This week, 10 On Your Side is looking ahead to the summer season with “Operation Oceanfront” — a three-part investigation into preparations for what officials hope will be a summer of recovery from COVID-19 and social unrest over the past year.
To get some answers about why Virginia Beach officials say tourists should travel to the area, 10 On Your Side recently hopped in a gator vehicle with Resort Management Office Interim Director Brian Solis.
“We offer hospitality, outreach, and cleaning services, and they will engage this person [who is homeless] and ask him how they are doing and refer them to housing and resources folks,” he said.
Homeless outreach is just one of many services the resort management office will coordinate.
City Council prioritized re-establishing a stand-alone Resort Management Office to work across the city to improve a network of resources in the resort area — that covers maintenance, code and City ordinance enforcement and homeless outreach.
City Council also outlined other improvement areas that needed to be prioritized based on feedback from stakeholders. That feedback included more entertainment programming and revitalization projects.
Solis said change came this summer due to issues in 2020.
“Social unrest was certainly an issue,” Solis said.
Because of the changes, the city pumped in $1 million for the new Resort Master Program which is dedicated to improving visitor experience and the physical and social beauty of Atlantic Avenue.
“We do believe the more the city invests in Atlantic Avenue physically and the experience the more our restaurants and hotels will also improve their experience,” Solis said.
Solis also credits the city for beefing up entertainment programs all summer long on 17th and 24th streets stages.
“Entertainment in our parks, and our Live on Atlantic program that Beach Events puts on, because of that, the city increased that funding by 40% which is now $4.3 million dollars,” Solis said.
Solis drove 10 On Your Side to the stages, which will be a big part of the entertainment.
“We are bringing you here to show the 24th Street stage. Basically, every single day from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there will be live entertainment on this stage throughout the entire summer,” he said.
Back on Atlantic, Solis presented 10 On Your Side with a challenge.
“Tell me if you see trash or cigarette butts on the ground,” he said.
He was right — we didn’t see one. Solis credits that to cigarette butt level cleaning on Atlantic Avenue.
Virginia Beach resort ambassadors are making a big difference as they are cleaning and making Atlantic Avenue basically look spotless.
Cole McDonald is from Philadelphia and recently visited the Oceanfront area.
“One of the ambassadors passed by us and said, ‘How are you guys doing?’ I was eating my ice cream,” he said. “I have never seen that before.”
Jeff Wickman and his family came to Virginia Beach from Michigan.
“That’s the other thing. It is so clean. The boardwalk is immaculate, and that is surprising, and you don’t see a lot of cops out there. There are a lot of people who really seem friendly, and it is clean here,” he said.
We found Resort Ambassador Rhonda Davis with a positive attitude.
“I try to get everything picked up. All the paper, so when people walk by, they say oh this looks nice,” Davis said.
“The chief designated a resort liaison officer, a sergeant, two police officers, and two special event coordinators who will work specifically on public safety to review and approve permits,” he said.
There will also be a new police sub-station in the 2100 block of Atlantic Avenue.
City spokesperson Julie Hill confirmed the Boxx store will no longer be a bar and restaurant, but will serve as the satellite office for police. It’ll be in service by July 1.
Hill said other services could be in the office but that has not been determined.
WAVY’s Andy Fox spoke with property owner Stephan Michaels. He said he cut the deal in the name of safety.
“Everyone deserves to be safe: customers, employees, tenants and landlords and we believe this move creates a safer environment,” Michaels said.
10 On Your Side ended our tour of the Oceanfront with Solis at the foot of what will be Pharrell Williams’ Atlantic Park. Williams is one of the partners.
“This Atlantic Park area redevelopment will be a huge private investment in this entire Central Beach area. And Atlantic Park is going to look down 19th Street to the new sports center,” he said.
Next Monday, we kick off the summer of 2021, and there is great hope and forward-thinking that it will be a positive summer.
Revenue and hotel bookings are way ahead of last year and rival the incredible numbers from 2019.