I hope this email finds you healthy and well! September was a great month. Norfolk City Council returned from our August recess and we kicked right back into high gear.
I congratulate Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD to us locals) for the groundbreaking of their future mental health hospital. This $224M hospital, located on the same campus as Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and Eastern Virginia Medical School on Brambleton Avenue, will house 60 inpatient beds and other behavioral health services for children ages 2-18. These services are so needed in our community. I look forward to the opening in 2022!
Resort, Spa, Casino. I want to share my thoughts on this economic development opportunity we have here in Norfolk. Recently, Norfolk City Council voted 7-1 in favor (I voted in favor) approving the option to purchase and an intergovernmental agreement with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to develop a resort, spa, tribal casino in the Harbor Park area of Norfolk. The public was made aware of this potential casino project in December, 2018. The agreement gives the Pamunkey Indian Tribe the option to purchase 13.4 acres that today sits dormant. Norfolk is not generating any revenue from this land. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has up to 5 years to purchase the land (Norfolk receives $100,000 for each option year before purchase); will pay nearly $10M for the purchase of the 13.4 acres (represents fair market value for the land); and will pay Norfolk $125,000 each year while the resort/spa/casino is under development. Once the resort/spa/casino is open the agreement states that they will pay Norfolk 4% net gaming revenues each year with a minimum $3M/year. The minimum scope and standards are 750 slot machines and 150 hotel rooms. If Class III gaming is approved by the Virginia General Assembly, add 25 gaming tables. That scenario will render $5M/year to Norfolk. The maximum scenario is $32M as a $700M resort development, 3,500-4,500 slots, four-diamond 500 room full service hotel, 3-5 on site restaurants, 750 seat entertainment facility with spa, parking and a waterfront promenade. By the way, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe is not asking Norfolk to pay for any infrastructure or development costs for this project.
This new revenue stream will allow Norfolk to put money toward building schools and addressing flooding and sea – level rise that today we simply can’t afford in our $1.3B annual budget. In fact, Norfolk City Council voted 7-1 (I voted in favor) to designate the $10M sale price and the option year revenues and development year revenues to go towards capital improvement projects for two high schools in Norfolk—Maury High School and Booker T. Washington High School. The needs at Maury High School are at a crisis level. Both schools along with all of the other school buildings require more than $1.3B in capital needs. Norfolk simply doesn’t have that kind of money in our budget. But, strong economic development projects like this resort casino will allow Norfolk to inch towards these unmet needs for our schools, flooding and sea-level rise.
I appreciated all of those who voiced their opinion to me on this matter via email, in person, via social and even while I have been on my neighborhood runs. I appreciate that friends and neighbors feel comfortable approaching me to express their thoughts. I welcome them. I understand that there are some who simply are opposed to a casino, period end of discussion. Personally, I don’t see the casino as the problem but as a partial solution to the major problems we already have in Norfolk including school infrastructure and flooding and sea-level rise.
Moving on…it was a great month going to civic leagues and being in the community. Roland Park Civic League hosted its annual neighborhood picnic and welcomed the great Norfolk Fire & Rescue team. Lafayette-Winona Civic League was focused on traffic and speeding on Lafayette Blvd. We celebrated the opening of the Tidewater Community College Perry Glass Art Wheel Center located in the Neon District. The art is beautiful and for sale if you have an interest. Jack and I enjoyed having our 35 year old son, Patrick, home from Northern Virginia for his birthday weekend. We biked from our home along the Elizabeth River Trail to downtown Norfolk and had dinner on Granby Street. Patrick was amazed and thrilled to see the vitality of his hometown downtown and more importantly, how easy it was to bike downtown!
Finally, I want to thank Lee’s Friends for inviting me to speak at their annual Volunteer Luncheon Celebration. Lee’s Friends provides cancer patients transportation to doctor’s appointments, grants for food and clothing—all of these services free of charge.
Have a great October!