It was recently reported that the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and its team responsible for casino development have filed the plans for the proposed HeadWaters Resort and Casino project again. However, these plans display a “more compact footprint” that doesn’t include the marina and visualize the opening of the casino before the rest of the property.
The final plans for the location have to be considered and validated by the City Council, before the City of Norfolk may officially sell the land needed for the casino-resort project, located near the Elizabeth River and Harbor Park. In addition, the plans are scheduled to be considered first at an Architectural Review Board hearing on January 8.
Furthermore, in the aforementioned documents filed to the city, there are no specifics on the full price of the project or the construction timeline. However, the main goal of the submitted plans is for some casino gaming operations to officially begin operating in 2025, while simultaneously, according to the casino representatives, the construction of other parts of the property such as the spa and hotel is proceeding smoothly.
According to Jay Smith, spokesman for HeadWaters, the project’s developers are devoted to investing half a billion dollars in the casino-resort, which involves a spa and fitness area, a 65,000- square-foot casino floor and a 300-room hotel. “We need to start construction in spring of ‘24 to meet our statutory requirement of opening game operations by November 2025,” as reported by Norfolk daily newspaper The Virginian-Pilot.
Plans, said Smith, would involve building out the property from north to south with construction on the hotel starting in 2026 as part of one continuous build.
The casino wants to install 50 table games and 1,800 to 2,000 slot machines, but several tables and machines will likely to be released initially. On that note, Smith added: “So on day one of November 2025, it won’t have 2,000 machines and 50 table games, it will probably be about half that.”
Golden Eagle Consulting II, the firm helping back up the aforementioned casino-resort project, and the tribe, withdrew previous plans prior to a vote by the aforementioned Architectural Review Board after city leadership objected to a “two-phase approach“ that attempted to construct permanent resort and gaming components in 2 phases and didn’t provide enough specifics about hotel and other benefits.
Whether or not the most recent iteration of the plan – designed as a single proposal but conceptualized as a multiphase opening – will be supported by city leader is unclear.
Commenting on the matter, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander reportedly said this week that he had yet to see the newly submitted plans, but reaffirmed his commitment that the city would approve the plans that deliver what was approved by voters in a 2020 referendum and what the original agreement reflected. The mayor further stated that approval for construction of the project will be as a single detailed package, rather than a piecemeal approach requiring multiple approvals from councils, according to The Virginian Pilot.
Alexander went on to say that he’s “been part of the conversation that they will build the entire project and what has been submitted in the past was unacceptable, suggesting a building (of) the casino and the garage and not having the hotel, spa resort included” in the same proposal.
On a related note, the amended plans also no longer require direct waterfront work, with the full project located north of the Elizabeth River Trail. Former plans involved a marina to be located on the Elizabeth River, which would reinvigorate few abandoned docks at the location.
Commenting on the decision to reduce the project’s footprint, Smith reportedly said that the decision to shrink the footprint of the project was made because of ongoing discussions between HeadWaters and city staff about impacts of the planned seawall project being built along the downtown waterfront by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In the initial contract between the casino developers and the City of Norfolk, the city would sell nearly 14 acres of land for the HeadWaters Resort and Casino project. Also, the deadline for the tribe to buy the land is Jan. 2025, also under the terms of the initial agreement.
As for the region that Headwaters suggests to develop in the latest plans, it is approximately 6.5 acres of waterfront land located between Amtrak station and Harbor Park, with an extra acre located on the other side of said Amtrak station to be utilized for construction staging and possibly converted into a parking lot. Speaking on the matter, Smith said the city and casino developers have joined forces to work out a timeline for the planned seawall and how it affects construction timelines, the process of potentially amending the original agreement and possible cost-sharing to finance the barrier planned between the river and the casino.
Layout of the HeadWaters Resort and Casino project:
As for the plans filed to the city, they display a finished building with a ground-level garage with multiple parking spaces in a deck of at least 4 stories on the east side of the structure. In addition, the casino will have many restaurants and overlooks the Elizabeth River and Harbor Park. Then, the east side of the property will also feature support areas overlooking the road that divide the casino from the aforementioned Amtrak station.
As for the hotel, plans indicate the hotel will include a 10,000-square-foot ballroom that will face the Elizabeth River, 3,000-square-foot spa and meeting rooms. However, the renderings must involve a construction schedule, according to Alexander. “I want to have all of that information available to the public so we can all measure benchmarks.”
Norfolk’s mayor reportedly went on to say that he would weigh this site plan against the initial contract, which has not been changed since 2020. Speaking to this, he added: “Right now, we’re looking for them to adhere to the development agreement.”
Moreover, following the Architectural Review Board hearing, the plans are reviewed by the Planning Commission, after which comes the City Council hearing the applications.
According to Smith, in this regard, the time for modifications and alterations to plans has passed. “We’ve got to get building,” he said.