By Lydia Wheeler
The city of Norfolk is moving forward with plans to build an outlet mall on the Norfolk/Virginia Beach city line with or without the city of Virginia Beach.
On Thursday, the Norfolk Planning Commission approved an application from the project’s developer, Simon Property Group, to rezone about 40 acres in Norfolk to allow 350,000 square feet of retail space to be built on the former Lake Wright Golf Course property on Northampton Boulevard. The commission will pass its recommendation on to Norfolk City Council for final approval.
During a public hearing on the issue Thursday, Randy Royal, project engineer and vice president at Kimley-Horn and Associates, said the project has been redesigned to keep all construction within Norfolk city limits. Plans originally called for stormwater management and a portion of the mall’s parking to go on 5.15 acres of Norfolk-owned land located in the city of Virginia Beach. That land, however, had to be rezoned from light industrial to community business district before construction could move forward. Because some members of Virginia Beach City Council seemed to be stalling the project with concerns that the mall would negatively affect Burton Station, the neighborhood next door, Simon decided to keep all parking and stormwater management on Norfolk property.
“The city of Virginia Beach does not want us to move forward at this time,” Royal said. “So we condensed the project. Phase one we were planning to build anyway. In the future we’ll build phase two.”
In addition to the 350,000 square feet of leasable retail space, which will make for roughly 90 stores, the first phase of the project includes construction of a walking trail around the lake, a footbridge over the lake and a fountain in the lake. Those things will stay, but the rest of the green space won't stay green forever. Norfolk city spokeswoman Lori Crouch said Simon has future plans to build an additional 100,000 square feet of retail space on that vacant parcel immediately adjacent to the retail stores.
“It’s no different than that third anchor space at MacArthur Mall,” she said.
To build additional space for more stores, Simon would need to move the outlet mall’s storm water management facility to that 5.15-acre property in Virginia Beach and create an additional parking lot. A public hearing on the rezoning of that property is still scheduled for the Virginia Beach Planning Commission meeting on Aug. 13.