City will re-launch the survey asking about a May 31 memorial before its 1-year anniversary

The mass shooting happened in Building 2, May 31, 2019. (Southside Daily/Melanie Occhiuzzo)
The mass shooting happened in Building 2, May 31, 2019. (Southside Daily/Melanie Occhiuzzo)

VIRGINIA BEACH — City Council heard results Tuesday from the survey that laid out options for a future memorial site and the fate of Building 2 after the May 31 mass shooting.

Over 19 days, 2,650 people participated in the survey leaving 1,247 comments — 12 percent of participants worked in Building 2 before or since May 31 and 27 percent work in the Municipal Center but not Building 2. 

Julie Hill, the city’s communications director, addressed City Council in their workshop meeting Tuesday and said the survey was released to city employees before it went to the public — just five weeks after the tragedy.

“We had this about five weeks after May 31 we are now just two-and-a-half months past it so it is still very fresh for a lot of people,” she said.

Hill said the city was in touch with about six to eight other cities who have suffered a mass shooting and they advised making another attempt at the survey closer to about a year out to get a better idea of what people want.

When asked if the city should maintain a site for a temporary memorial, the number of people who said yes and those who answered no were very close — slightly more people said no.

“We don’t have great consensus around what people are looking for but again we’re talking about something very early on in this overall process,” Hill said. 

The second purpose of the survey asked if Building 2, the site of the shooting, should be torn down or repurposed.

According to the results, 39 percent of people said to tear it down but 61 percent wanted some form of reuse, Hill said.

Survey participants were asked what way they think the building should be for, including as a police headquarters building, other city departments, or for a new City Hall.

“There was a split over the various types of reuses — the least desirable of the locations was to make it the new City Hall,” Hill said.

City Manager Dave Hansen said he and his team have a plan to completely gut the building and be able to look at it with “a different set of eyes and a different perspective” by mid-April 2020.

He also said they’re breaking ground for a new City Hall building on Aug. 19.

“There are people that will be affected forever but the shell of that building and the electrical system and HVAC that can be preserved — it well exceeds $20 million and we need to be very cognizant of the public’s purse to afford this,” Hansen said. 

With several police activities spread across the city, Hansen said he fully supports Building 2 becoming the police’s first precinct to consolidate the department.

In a July 10 meeting with council members and the city manager, Virginia Beach Police officer and May 31 first responder, Charles Loveless, said the city should tear down the building.

RELATED STORY: May 31 shooting aftermath: Surviving victims have spoken

“We will work diligently to overcome some of the concerns folks have but I think that by cleansing that building and by having the emotional interaction with clearing those spaces we’re going to be able to move forward and time will help us to adjust to that,” Hansen said. 

To see the full report of survey results, click here.

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Lucretia Cunningham is a multimedia journalist at Southside Daily covering hyper-local stories in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Her stories focus on public safety, tourism, and city government. She is a Virginia transplant and military spouse originally from Chicago. Lucretia also served on active duty from 2006 to 2016 and started her journalism career as a broadcaster in the Virginia Air National Guard. When she’s not covering stories on the Southside, she’s covering stories with her Air National Guard unit.