Virginia Beach’s Cavalier Hotel requiring more work than planned

Renovation of the historic Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach has taken more work than expected, an architect on the project told the city’s Historic Preservation Commission this week.

The Cavalier on the Hill. (Courtesy of Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development)
The Cavalier on the Hill. (Courtesy of Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development)

Greg Rutledge, an architect from Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company who is working on the renovations, said many parts of the nearly 90-year-old hotel needed drastic renovation and repairs — more than was originally anticipated — including to the building’s steel structure.

Repairs to the structural frame are about 90 percent complete, though much work remains about two years into the project, Rutledge said.

“Things are starting to come back into place now that the demolition is done,” he said.

Renovation to finish in 2016

Problems with the exterior brick masonry had led to water damage in the structure. Many spots where bricks weren’t fitted properly had to be fixed, and all the roofs — as well as many structural columns and windows in the guest towers – had to be replaced, Rutledge said. The windows on the first floor are being restored, not replaced.

Rutledge called it an “amazing project.”

Mac Rawls, the head of the Cavalier Hotel Task Force for the Historic Preservation Commission, credited his task force as well as the City Council, City Manager Jim Spore and Mayor Will Sessoms for creating an incentive-based package to save the hotel, which Rawls said was on the verge of being torn down.

The developer is Cavalier Associates LLC, an entity that includes businessman Bruce Thompson and Gold Key/Professional Hospitality Resources. The developer is investing $260 million, while the city has approved an incentive package totaling $36 million, including $18 million from taxes generated by the project once it is completed, according to the city.

Mac Rawls address attendees at the annual public meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)
Mac Rawls address attendees at the annual public meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)

Rawls acknowledged that the deal with Thompson had come under fire recently in the wake of a report by The Virginian-Pilot that said city staff did not give the same information to other potential developers that they gave to Thompson as bids were being accepted on the project. Rawls declined to comment further about that.

He said everyone will be impressed by the renovated hotel when it opens, which the city says is expected to happen in 2016.

“The building, not the site, was assessed by the city at a value of, I believe, I think was $970,000,” Rawls said. “At our last tour, Bruce Thompson said that his budget has now gotten to about $65 million to restore this. So he has put a tremendous amount of money into this, way more than what the initial value was.”

Other pieces of the project include construction of a 300-room hotel at the Oceanfront and 82 homes on the grounds of the Cavalier on the Hill.

The renovation plans call for a reduction in the number of guest rooms in the Cavalier on the Hill to 90 from about 115, with some rooms expanding into suites, Rutledge said.

Mark Reed, the city’s historic preservation planner, asked about the building’s accessibility issues and what has to be done to meet safety codes.

Rutledge called the Cavalier an “unforgiving building” in terms of accessibility, but he said there will be limited-access elevators as well as ramps for people to use.

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