The Virginia Beach Division of the Chamber held its monthly board meeting on October 2. The group of 40 business leaders, heard from guest speaker Bruce Thompson, President and CEO of Gold Key/PHR Hotels and Resorts. His company currently has $350 million worth of development under construction and employs approximately 3,000 seasonally and downsizes to 2,100 during the off-season.
Thompson took ownership of The Cavalier Hotel on July 22, closing on the property and formally embarking on an ambitious project combining historic renovation and new home construction. He paid $35.1 million for 22 acres that include the 1927 hotel and the newer sister hotel across Atlantic Avenue. The property was sold to settle a lawsuit among former owners.
Thompson said, “The Cavalier Hotel is iconic and I’m hoping that will remain the case after the renovation and restoration process.”
Instead of tearing the old hotel down and developing residences, Thompson’s group will renovate the hotel on the old site and build 90 homes called Cavalier Village on the land around it. Thompson is planning a $259 million project that includes renovating the old Cavalier Hotel, building 100 homes on the land around it and renovating or rebuilding the newer hotel. The City Council voted to contribute $18 million in public money for the project.
“We’re looking at putting a small stable on the property with horses and a carriage for weddings.” We’re looking at building a grotto and a distillery in the basement of the old hotel and creating our own branded Old Cavalier Bourbon.” In addition, Thompson wants to turn the old hunt club into a speakeasy. A full-service spa will be a part of the amenities. There will be about 80 hotel rooms each one unique and differently styled. Suites will be named after the famous guests who used to stay at the hotel. Thompson said they are positioning the hotel between The Jefferson Hotel and the Inn at Little Washington. The residents of Cavalier Village would have access to the amenities of the Cavalier Hotel.
The newer hotel on the oceanfront will be torn down after summer of 2014. In its place will be a full service beach resort. The old beach club may become another hotel or condominium project.
Thompson was asked about the new Hilton Hotel and Convention Center that he is planning for downtown Norfolk. The $126 million, 23-story complex will be built on an empty lot located at Granby and Main streets. Thompson explained, “There is a difference between a hotel that has meeting space and a hotel that has a conference center.” Thompson has brought in a team of consultants to bring excitement and an iconic property to Norfolk. He travels around the country and takes photos of ideas to then replicate by architects. Thompson jokingly said, “Not one original idea has come from me.” He concluded by saying, “We want to break the mold. We want to be a market maker and change the way people think about downtown Norfolk.”