VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — As 2020 approaches, the city continues to move forward with its plans to renovate and reuse the building where a dozen people were tragically gunned down in May.
In July, Virginia Beach City Council voted unanimously to spend $4 million to draft plans for the renovations of Buildings 1, 2 and 11 at the Municipal Center in order to relocate employees without making those who worked inside Building 2 on the day of the shooting return.
The plan calls for Virginia Beach Police Department headquarters to move into a remodeled Building 2, while all departments in Building 2 will be moved to the current police space in Building 11 and the current City Hall. Everyone in the current City Hall will move to a new building, which will be behind the current City Hall.
The catch, however, is that the undertaking, which is estimated to cost $133 million and be completed in the fall of 2023, has not yet been fully funded.
Several families of those killed in the attack continue to call for the building to be torn down. Tearing the building down was also the top-selected answer in a survey on the future of the site.
“I’ve got no indication we should stop,” Tom Nicholas, the city buildings facilities engineer said Monday. “But in reality, if City Council meets … and they decide ‘No, we do not want to fund that option,’ then we would not do this plan.”
However Nicholas points out that the $4 million spent for plans would not be recoverable, and as of Sunday, the process is moving further along.
“This coming Sunday [Jan. 5], the request for qualifications goes out on the street … for design-build teams that want to bid on the renovations for these three large buildings,” Nicholas said.
An actual RFP — a request for proposal — could be issued by April 1 with an award for the work issued by summer. All are contingent on funding.
Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, has introduced legislation that would call for a $10 million grant and $20 million no-interest loan to help complete the work.
In the meantime, Nicholas’ focus is on finding a home for the hundreds of employees displaced from Building 2. While planning and community development have found office space until the municipal renovations are complete, public works and public utilities departments are still spread out in different offices across the city.
Nicholas said property owners have stepped forward to help, but the city needs a minimum 50,000 square feet of space.
“It’s vital to have them all together,” Nicholas said. “Unfortunately when we looked at what [property owners] really had to offer…it was in the city of Virginia Beach but it was…30 to 40 minutes from the Municipal Center and when we really looked at it, those departments just can’t get back and forth with leadership and the functions they have to perform at that distance. So we are really looking more in the Lynnhaven area.”
Until the departments are back under one roof, leadership has advised that the work pace could lag significantly.
“We will continue looking until we find the right property.”