VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach leaders have turned down a development for Rudee Inlet, one that experts say could generate millions of tax dollars a year.
The Rudee Loop Parcel at Rudee Inlet is considered one of, if not the most desirable development parcels on the East Coast, and Virginia Beach taxpayers own it.
“Once we pull the trigger for developing this parcel, we must make sure we are involving the public,” said Councilman John Uhrin.
And while there has been interest from at least one developer to move forward with a premier, mixed-use project at the Rudee Loop, emails uncovered by WAVY.com show how the philosophy of the number one developer in the resort city has halted any developments there for the time being.
Developer Bruce Thompson has his eyes on the parcel and sent an email to Councilman Uhrin on January 12: “When the timing is right … I surely would want to participate … so would developers up and down the East Coast.”
Timing is why Thompson wants the Rudee Loop parcel to be the last developed at the Oceanfront. And that philosophy led to the rejection of a proposal to develop the parcel by football great and now developer Bruce Smith, who refused to comment.
WAVY.com asked Councilman Uhrin if Bruce Thompson is “driving the bus” on the development of Rudee Inlet.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “He is not, and this has been our long-standing policy,” Uhrin said.
Uhrin emailed back to Thompson that Rudee Loop should be developed only after, “our vision for 31st Street and the 19th Street Corridor has been stood up and stabilized.”
The 31st Street Corridor includes Thompson’s massive Hilton, apartments, shops, and restaurants. 19th Street includes the development of the Dome Site, which Thompson is not interested in. Thompson is also developing the old Cavalier property and building a new hotel across the street. He is also developing the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center in Norfolk.
Thompson appears to be extended, with many projects on his plate.
Mayor Will Sessoms in turning down the Bruce Smith project, saying there is too much on the City’s plate at this time.
Critics whisper the City is trying to hold the Rudee Loop project for Thompson, when the time is right for him because he has too much on his plate currently.
“I would say that is completely incorrect,” Uhrin told WAVY.com. “Ultimately when this parcel gets developed, if I have any say in it, the first commitment is involving the public to see what they want to see at this piece.”
In his email, Thompson states Bruce Smith spoke with him about Smith’s project, and Thompson claims he was approached by the same Wyndham Franchise Smith ended up with in his proposal. Thompson states: “It would be a huge mistake before knowing what is on the dome site, future of the arena, and impact of private sector development to even consider anything at Ruddee (sic).”
“That’s what I said long before Bruce Thompson said it, so Bruce Thompson is parroting what I said,” Uhrin told WAVY.com.
Late Monday afternoon, Thompson text WAVY.com this additional statement:
This is the single most valuable piece of property in the mid-Atlantic. Anyone who develops anything there will be a huge success at almost any scale. My issue is that until we see what is developed on the Dome Site, the Arena, and the development of the 19th and 17th street corridors, we will not know the full potential of that site and what is missing to complete the resort vision. The City should develop that property very strategically to fill any voids in quality or product. Yes, I would be most extremely interested in developing that property, as would most any developer on the East Coast. Finally, leaving it as open space also may not be out of the question, but time will tell.
It should also be noted Bruce Thompson and his partner did not have what Virginia Beach City Council considers to be the leading proposal for the new arena. Councilman Uhrin said that is one example of how Thompson does not always get the work he wants.