VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Not all the news is bad news on Atlantic Avenue.
Crime has been an issue, as well as a lack of police presence, protests ending in violence, and looting. Not to mention on top of all that we are facing one of the worst events in our country’s history, COVID-19.
With all that in mind, Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson calls the summer of 2020 the “Lost Summer.”
“I think it is the lost summer, and not to mention the pandemic we haven’t seen in over 100 years. None of us have ever experienced this in our lifetime, and hopefully we never will again,” Wilson said.
Wilson lives on Atlantic Avenue, and says there have been too many problems and distractions.
“With the marches, and some of the violence that has occurred on Atlantic Avenue, it’s been really hard for the store owners, retailers and hotels.”
We are told Virginia Beach hasn’t made a major investment in the Atlantic Avenue resort strip in over 30 years. The sidewalks look old, dirty, and dark.
“You know if things look run down, people are going to treat them like [they’re] run down.”
Wilson and Councilman Guy Tower both acknowledge Atlantic Avenue also needs a fighter in the form of a Resort Management Office.
“We need a fighter to be focused on Atlantic Avenue every day. They need to be asking, ‘what can I do today to make the resort area look better, work better, working with the local business people down there [on Atlantic Avenue]?”
Tower also says police presence has been greatly lacking this summer, stretched too thin, and the city needs to step it up.
“Now, don’t misconstrue that I blame police for this, I don’t, but I think … the current presence is at unacceptable levels. I think it is up to council to find a way to increase it.”
Yet, there is good news, according to recent industry data from STR Inc., a company that gives market data on the hotel industry. Norfolk and Virginia Beach have the highest occupancy rate of all market competitors. Year-to-date, we are only down 17 percent from this time last year.
“That is phenomenal [for the circumstances]. There’s a lot of hard work to do during the shoulder season,” says Tiffany Russell, who is vice-president of marketing communications for the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It is important to promote our message of public health and safety… And we have done a really wonderful job of that. The city has also expanded beach ambassadors, and the message we are putting out there to families… We are clean.”
Russell also brings up another phenomenon.
“We are seen as a destination for families who could be virtual learning … and vacationing at the same time.”
Tower said Atlantic Avenue needs to be more of an attractive place for residents and visitors alike.
“We need to be guided by what would make Atlantic Avenue an attractive place for our residents at the beach to come. The families, the military, the single people, the young people, and the older people… This must be what guides us in our decisions.”
It has also become clear that City Council will be voting Tuesday to approve the Resort Management Office, which appears to be the first major step in turning around what could be wrong on Atlantic Avenue.
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