HeadWaters developers scrap temporary casino plans
Updated plans also call for Norfolk casino to be built before hotel
The developers of the $500 million HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk have scrapped plans to open a 45,000-square-foot temporary casino, instead focusing all their efforts on building the permanent casino, which will open before construction begins on an associated hotel and other planned amenities.
“We have changed our approach and gone with a first-class experience from the get-go,” says Jay Smith, spokesperson for HeadWaters Resort & Casino, which is being developed in a partnership between the King William-based Pamunkey Indian Tribe and Tennessee billionaire Jon Yarbrough. The developers hope to break ground on the project this year, Smith says.
According to plans filed with the city last week, the permanent HeadWaters resort casino will be built in two phases. The first will include a 45,000 square-foot gaming floor, along with a 180-seat restaurant, a 1,200-space parking garage and a 5,000-square-foot lobby.
While the plan filed with the city doesn’t include details about the project’s second phase, Smith says phase 2 of construction will include a hotel, an outdoor pool, additional restaurants, an entertainment venue and other amenities. Renderings filed with the city last week show an infinity pool overlooking the ballpark, a multistory hotel and multiple bars. One design shows the word “Norfolk” carved into the building in large letters. In a design narrative for the project’s first phase, the developer writes, “The graceful curves of the shipping channels and railroad lines that once traversed the site have been translated into various components of the project. These influences pay homage to the original use of the bustling marine terminal.”
The developers plan to get the casino built and operational before moving on to the second phase, Smith says. No timeline has been announced for delivering the second phase.
The developers’ plans submitted to the city for a development certificate have to go undergo a review from city staff and must receive approvals from the city Architectural Review Board, the City Planning Commission and City Council, all which could happen in the next few months.
The plans for the casino that were submitted to the city fell short of Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander’s expectations. “Although it may be constructed in phases, I was not expecting them to turn [the plan] in phases,” Alexander said. The mayor added that he was concerned by the lack of concrete details in the plan, as well as a lack of communication from developers on the casino’s application status with the Virginia Lottery, the state regulatory body that must approve the casino’s operating license.
“We continue to ask them for the same information over and over again,” Alexander says. “I want all the details to accompany the pretty pictures. Submit the supporting documentation.”
However, in a March letter sent by the city to the casino developers, the city requested only conceptual details for the future phases of development, while requesting details such as architectural renderings, building elevations and a site layout for the first phase, all of which were provided by the development team.
Regarding the operating license, Smith says, the HeadWaters project is in the midst of the licensing process and working closely with the lottery, regularly updating the state agency on the casino’s land acquisition and design plans.
The HeadWaters project has gone through multiple iterations since voters approved the project in a November 2020 referendum. At that time, developers pitched a $500-plus million resort casino with a 300-room hotel, restaurants, an entertainment venue, a rooftop pool, thousands of slot machines and as many as 150 table games.