There are two thoughts on the path forward for Operations Building No. 2 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center: tear it down and build a new building behind the current City Hall, or renovate the site where a dozen people were fatally shot on May 31.
“I just don’t think we should tear down Building 2,” said Vice-Mayor Jim Wood.
What do you do with a city building where 12 people were gunned down?
As hard as it is, Wood says you keep the building and gut the inside, an option that’s gaining momentum. “We just can’t stop. We have to keep moving forward. We just can’t stop this tragedy. I just disagree with tearing it down. It’s almost 90,000 square feet of building.”
Wood, along with others, supports this scenario. The renovation idea also breaks down into two options, among the three overall that City Council will choose from. The difference is that the No. 2 option is a public-private partnership that could save about $4 million.
In options 2 and 3, a new City Hall, which is already scheduled to be built behind the current City Hall in an open grassy lawn area, goes up for $50 million
Once it is built, all those in the old City Hall will move to the new City Hall.
Then after the old City Hall is refurbished, all those from Building 2, including Planning, Public Works and Public Utilities, will move into the Old City Hall.
The Virginia Beach Police Department will then move from Building 11 to Building 2, after a massive renovation that will take Building 2 down to the 2x4s and build out to the specifications the police department needs. The brick and mortar will remain.
The building could also be renamed Building 531 in memory of May 31, and it could take $30 million to get Building 2 ready.
The option for the enhanced new City Hall, Option 1, includes $95.5 million for the larger design and $49 million for renovations to buildings 1 (the current City Hall) and 11.
Wood says no one who worked in Building 2 on May 31 should ever have to return there. In fact, Building 2 will sit empty during renovation until the police department likely takes over.
“I understand the knee jerk, gut wrenching desire to do that, but ultimately we can achieve the same level of rebirth, if you will, by renovating.”
Wood was at his niece’s wedding in Portsmouth that dark Friday afternoon. He immediately left, racing back finding this unfolding chaos next to City Hall and was stunned by the depth of tragedy.
“At first I heard six, six were dead. That’s the number I was told, and it went as high as 15 at one point.”
Sadly, the final number was 12. 17 days later, it still seems so unreal. “Everything was just so chaotic. People weren’t sure what was going on, and I remember that,” Wood added.
In all, 389 employees have been relocated from Building 2 to 28 locations.
City Council will see a presentation of the options on Tuesday night during their session.