Military Circle redevelopment could include arena
Four groups — including mid-Atlantic developers, entertainment and sports figures, concert promoters and arena operators — are competing for a chance to redevelop Norfolk’s aging Military Circle Mall into a mixed-use community.
Overhauling the struggling mall has long been on the city’s to-do list, but the project was jump-started last year when the Norfolk Economic Development Authority purchased the 75-acre property for $11 million and the adjacent DoubleTree Hotel property for $2.4 million. The city chose four finalists to submit full proposals to transform Military Circle into a walkable neighborhood with housing, retail and office space. With a May 14 deadline for submissions, a developer will be selected this summer.
“We’re not trying to create an area that’s a cookie-cutter destination,” says Norfolk Economic Development Director Jared Chalk. “We want to create a project that’s a catalyst for future change and growth for the entire east side of Norfolk.”
Sitting at the crossroads of Interstates 64 and 264 near Norfolk International Airport, city officials say Military Circle is one of the top redevelopment sites in the mid-Atlantic. Rising 13 feet above sea level, the property is Norfolk’s highest ground and therefore the most resilient to rising sea levels.
“It’s a much more desirable site when there’s that type of elevation,” Chalk says. “The future growth of the city will be dominated by that corridor.”
An arena, a longstanding fixture on Hampton Roads’ wish list, could be included in the winning proposal, as three of the development teams have indicated their plans will contain an entertainment component. But Chalk says an arena is not a requirement. “Our goal first and foremost is to reposition the area.”
The Garcia Cos., the group behind a failed proposal to build an 18,000-seat arena at Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront, is one of the 14 members of proposal group Norfolk Next. Wellness Circle LLC, a team with famed musician Pharrell Williams, also includes major concert promoter Live Nation and Oak View Group, a nationwide operator of arenas, stadiums and convention centers. The Crossroads Partnership, a group including real estate companies led by NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and Olympic gymnast Jair Lynch, has ASM Global, which specializes in managing stadiums, convention centers and theaters.
The fourth group, Norfolk MCAssociates, includes Virginia Beach developer Bruce Thompson’s Gold Key | PHR, which recently transformed The Cavalier Hotel. ν