VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (WAVY) — After two failed attempts at receiving state funding, the City of Virginia Beach is now looking for new ways to push ahead with the realignment of Atlantic Avenue in front of the Cavalier Hotel.
In emails sent last month — obtained by 10 On Your Side through a Freedom of Information act request — Hotel Developer Bruce Thompson signaled that he himself may finance a project that would change a longtime traffic pattern in the resort.
Thompson, of Gold Key|PHR, has long pushed for the city to remove the intersection where Atlantic Avenue meets Pacific Avenue in front of his recently restored Cavalier Hotel. Under his endorsed plan, Atlantic Avenue would end in a cul-de-sac in front of a new oceanfront Marriott Hotel he is also developing.
City Manager Dave Hansen was an early advocate of the project, saying in late 2016 that the change would support the hotel, improve traffic flow in the area and create green space.
The project has since faced criticism and several setbacks. In the same email chain, Hansen wrote to Thompson, “I will do all that I can to move this request forward.”
Mainly, the issue comes down to money. In March 2017, and again in 2018, City Council voted to request nearly $2.5 million from the state Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund to complete the roadway change. Both times the request was denied.
The city has shelled out $245,000 for the design. Council has made clear it would not be paying for the physical improvements, a city spokesperson has said.
In a letter to Hansen on Sept. 19, Thompson stressed that decisions needed to be made soon as it would be “virtually impossible” and “prohibitively expensive” to complete the roadway changes once the Marriott construction is complete.
“If we do not make these improvements as recommenced by traffic consultants, we will create major traffic issues for any users of Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Avenue, and the neighborhoods far beyond the entrance to The Cavalier Hotel Complex,” Thompson wrote. “Assuming we have secured private funding for the road improvements, please advice as to how we would proceed with the final planning and construction posthaste.”
Three days later, in another chain of emails, Hansen responded by saying, “I believe I have the authority to realign Atlantic as long as we do not use general funds to pay for it. Hopefully we can do it without revisiting that approval.”
Hansen went onto say that several construction related issues still needed to be addressed and that staff is engaged in the matter.
“For the sake of those living adjacent to the Cavalier, it will be a godsend to realign Atlantic Avenue,” Hansen said in another email to Thompson on Sept. 22. “For those who compete against Goldkey/PHR, they will do all in their power to prevent you from being successful. And yes, there is a contingent who want to villainize you at every opportunity.”
However, it is not yet guaranteed that the issue won’t appear again before city council.
On Thursday, a city spokesperson told 10 On Your Side it all “depends on final project scope and parameters.”
“As approved by Council some time back, the City completed 90 percent design plans and provided them to PHR,” said Julie Hill, communications director for the City of Virginia Beach. “PHR is contracting with an Engineering firm to complete the design. At some point in the near future, we would anticipate PHR would make a submittal for the realignment to the Development Services Center.”
Also reached on Thursday, Thompson again highlighted the need to get something done soon.
“If this roadway does not proceed then it will be an issue for years to come and the opportunity will be lost,” Thompson said. “Each civic league effected by this roadway, including Oceans and Gallilee Church, understood and endorsed this road way. There have been public hearings, council has approved the realignment and paid for the engineering and our plans contemplate the change in roadways and designed the hotel infrastructure with that in mind. The only issue for the last year or more was who was going to pay for it.”