VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The vision for a new fishing pier at 15th Street includes a 180-foot SkyWheel, a new hotel, restaurant and shops, but it’ll take $25 million in city funding to make it happen.
Dave Hansen, city manager, says the public investment is a fraction of the roughly $250 million revitalization project to span 14th, 15th and 16th streets.
Hansen says the $25 million would pay for the 880-foot concrete pier and give free access to the public.
A supporter of the project addressed city council at a public hearing Tuesday, saying, “Like any resort, we must continually reinvest and reinvent ourselves. Think about an amusement park that never creates a new ride?”
Other residents point to flood protection, education and public safety as better uses of the $25 million.
If approved, the city would enter into an agreement with six families who own property on the proposed site.
An online petition against the pier has collected more than 280 signatures in three days.
“We have other things we need to take care of,” said one speaker. “We are your citizens, not your cows. Stop milking us.”
Hansen says the pier is part of the bigger Beach Entertainment District plan. He hopes to eventually have a sports complex, a new hotel-conference center and a revamped Dome Site to help to make the Oceanfront a destination year round.
“I think they don’t see the potential,” said Hansen, when asked about the opposition. “I think we need to realize that we need to invest in our largest city industry, tourism, and if we’re not nationally competitive it will translate into our bottom line.”
The $25 million would come from the city’s tourism fund, which generates money from cigarette, meal and hotel taxes.
Hansen says the council will make a decision on moving forward with the pier by September.
If approved, the project will likely take about two years to complete.