Cavalier Hotel reopens after $81 million renovation

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires
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The Raleigh Room, a space for cocktails and tea, is off the
main lobby of the hotel. Photo by Mark Rhodes

Hospitality executive Bruce L. Thompson once told the Virginia Beach City Council that he didn’t want to be “the guy who tore the hotel down.”

These days, Thompson and his business partners are being praised as the group that saved the iconic Cavalier Hotel.  After nearly five years and $81 million in renovations, the historic Virginia Beach hotel officially reopened March 7.

“It could have had 3,200 units on it,” Thompson, CEO of Gold Key| PHR, a Virginia Beach-based hospitality company, told a large gathering that attended the property’s ribbon-cutting celebration.

Thompson was referring to other developers who wanted to demolish the hotel and put up high-density residential projects after a judge ordered that the property be sold in 2012. The order was aimed at resolving a lawsuit over minority shareholder rights that had been filed by warring factions of the Disthene Group, the hotel’s owner at the time.  

Thompson’s group, Cavalier Associates LLC, which includes Frank Reidy, George Metzger, Bart Frye, Ed Ruffin and John Lawson, wanted to renovate the seven-story hotel at 4200 Atlantic Ave. because it had been a beloved landmark for weddings and meetings since its opening in 1927. 

With the property in a state of deterioration, the renovation took much longer than expected.  Along the way, an entire village got on board. The Virginia Beach City Council designated nearly $25 million in money and incentives to help finance the renovation, which also qualified for state historic tax credits.

Julie Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, calls the renovation “a gift to the commonwealth,” because it showcases the importance historic tax credits have in saving old structures.

Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms also praised the renovated 85-room Cavalier. The hotel’s reopening created more than 200 year-round jobs and is expected to generate $41 million to $52 million in new tax revenue in the first 20 years. 

Thompson, who got his start in timeshare properties, is happy with the outcome, too.  “I’d like to be known, with respect to this property, as someone who deeply cared about not only restoring the hotel but bringing it back to grace and grandeur — doing it in a way that the entire community could be proud,” he says

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