VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After nearly 20 years of discussion, the future of the Oceanfront land known as “Rudee Loop” is becoming more clear.

At Virginia Beach City Council’s workshop on Tuesday, a majority of members gave City Manager Patrick Duhaney the go-ahead to start searching for a firm with experience designing “world class parks” to transform the current property of parking lots and roads into “something special.”

It will be a park, as 84% of residents who were surveyed said they wanted.

What it won’t be is one of the three proposals submitted as part of a process last year, or the proposal the city’s own parks and rec department submitted.

Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson said it became clear that there was no way to get the required supermajority vote needed to move forward with selling the land to a private developer. Even if that would be the cheaper option.

“Watching all of this the last few years, I don’t know that we could get a supermajority. I don’t know if nine of us can agree on one. I don’t think there is any one particular one that is so extraordinary that nine of us would agree on,” Wilson said.

City Council asked for the proposals early last year for the nearly 11-acre piece of public land at the south end of the Oceanfront often dubbed “the most spectacular place undeveloped on the East Coast.”

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. Several other private homes, the Beach Quarters Inn and an amusement area were the most recent other uses on the parcels.

At the time of those purchases, 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.”

But in 2019, Rudee Loop was identified as the top priority for green space in a public survey and a resort planning document.

By August 2022, teams led by NFL Hall of Famer turned developer Bruce Smith, hotelier Bruce Thompson and the charitable Virginia Gentlemen Foundation all submitted their visions for the space. Two out of the three development teams who responded envisioned a waterfront park with a new parking garage.  

But since then familiar big-name personalities have clashed, alleging “cronyism” in the process. It’s an issue that’s plagued other public-private partnerships in the past and divided council members behind the scenes.

Wilson, whose district includes Rudee Loop, said they can no longer wait.

“I say let’s get on with it. I mean this has really taken a long time to get to this point,” Wilson said. “We all deserve better.”

A majority of her colleagues agreed with her.

Parks and Recreation will now start putting together a Request For Proposals for a firm with “signature park design experience” and then walk City Council through the process prior to issuing the RFP for a Rudee Loop Park, according to Kathy Warren, the city’s planning director.

That will give City Council the chance to have included what they want. Councilman Rocky Holcomb suggested pickleball courts.

Councilman Michael Berlucchi said it was the best discussion surrounding the topic he’s been a part of.

“This is not a tourist amenity; this a place for Virginia Beach residents to enjoy their Virginia Beach resort and Oceanfront. I think this presents a lot of really exciting potential,” Berlucchi said.

Mayor Bobby Dyer said while creating a park will be the focus, the need for another parking garage can’t be ignored.

Wilson said it could allow for the opportunity for a rooftop restaurant and suggested again considering the purchase of the Schooner Inn to add more land to the project.

Duhaney warned the public creation of a public park would likely come with a $40 million price tag and an annual $1.1 million upkeep commitment.

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