Could the Dome Site have a new developer?

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — In its day, the Dome Site at the Oceanfront was the entertainment center for Virginia Beach. But in 1994 the structure named for its golf-ball like appearance was torn down to make way for a bigger, better complex.

Photos: The future of the Dome project

Twenty years later, the site remains empty, but WAVY.com has learned of a closed meeting on Thursday that indicates that’s all about to change.

Critics think the history of developing the Dome Site has been somewhat of a joke. Texas Businessman Michael Jenkins hung around for years, but never got the financing for a 2,500-seat theater. WAVY News’ Andy Fox learned The Peterson Companies, out of Northern Virginia, will likely get a six-month exclusive agreement to see if they can find the answer.

“They can produce… there’s no doubt about that,” said City Councilman John Uhrin, of The Peterson Companies. “We had a very good meeting yesterday with them, and I think their words were ‘it is a blank slate’ at this point.”

The Peterson Companies built National Harbor outside Washington, D.C. The development company is nationally recognized, it’s not a cookie-cutter type builder, and has a track record for delivering. Uhrin says The Peterson Companies is very impressive.

“They are capable of producing… that’s for sure …if they come up with the right vision for the site,” said Uhrin.

The Dome Site is eight to ten acres of city-owned land between Pacific and Arctic avenues. Representatives of The Peterson Companies met with an evaluation committee, including Uhrin, who is charged with getting a plan for the Dome Site. The developers came with absolutely no preconceived ideas for what should go there.

“I don’t think they have any preconceived notion for what they would like to see developed there. They are also very astute to recognize whatever gets developed here will be something totally different if it is right down the street from an arena, or is a stand alone development,” added Uhrin.

Uhrin says the primary focus of any project must be on entertainment, but can include restaurants and some retail, which would probably be specific destination retail. Uhrin mentioned other elements that could work.

“Theaters, Lego Land, ice skating rinks, and those types of things. That doesn’t have to be in this proposal, but that is the kind of thing we favor, and that we are looking for,” explained Uhrin.

What Uhrin seemed to like most was that the potential developers are listeners, and understand entertainment is the key. The City won’t accept anything that does not emphasize entertainment.

“They came up with no ideas, or proposals, they listened… I did like that. I thought that was a very positive start to the entire process,” said Uhrin.

On May 20, the Virginia Beach Development Authority will meet and likely extend an exclusive contract to come up with a proposal to The Peterson Companies.

It is clear the City doesn’t want another Town Center, because it already exists. The City doesn’t want another Waterside, as Norfolk has that. The City wants a unique venue that is at least 50 percent entertainment, and likely more.

The question is if given the opportunity, will The Peterson Companies come up with the plan that can make that happen?

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