Center of Attention— Editorial
The Central Business District (CBDA) in Virginia Beach is where Armada Hoffler calls home. It provides a popular uptown spot to live, work, and play. In CoVaBiz most recent issue they captured the history and businesses that have made CBDA what it is today:
Virginia Beach was officially incorporated as a city in 1952, making it one of the youngest of the area’s seven cities. However, thanks to the resort area, with its vast expanse of Oceanfront excitement, including a 3-mile boardwalk, it quickly grew to become the largest city by population with the highest income per capita in Coastal Virginia.
In the 1980s, city leaders had a vision to create an “uptown” area that would provide a mixed-use development that included living spaces (condos and apartments), restaurants, high-end and unique retailers, spectacular offices spaces, entertainment venues, a hotel or two and even a couple of grocery stores. The idea was to make it an all-inclusive place where people could live, work and play in a space where one could easily walk to wherever they needed or wanted to go. They also wanted to make a space where people from outside of Virginia Beach would want to visit, bringing additional revenue opportunities to the area. To put their plan in action, they created the Central Business District Association (CBDA).
Gerald Divaris, chairman/CEO of Divaris Real Estate, Inc., was one of the original founders of the CBDA and one of the landowners upon which Town Center was developed. “If you look at any community that grows and is vital and vibrant, it has to have a central place that the people can feel is their place,” Divaris says. “A place they can have an affinity with. A place they’ll go to celebrate a great occasion. If you don’t have that core—that local environment that they become associated with—you lose a lot of energy for a community. That’s what Virginia Beach was lacking before Town Center was conceived. So, for us, it was important to provide all of the component pieces that made for a successful soul for the community. And that was living, working, playing, being entertained, the cultural components, art district … all of those pieces. So today, when you come to Town Center Virginia Beach, you’ll be amazed. Not necessarily because of the shops or entertainment. People are coming because this is their place. It’s easy to come to. It’s easy to shop. It’s easy to park. And a lot of people live here.”
Armada Hoffler Properties, Inc., a full-service real estate company with nearly 40 years of experience in developing, building, acquiring and managing properties and projects, was so impressed with the plan, they moved from their Chesapeake location to Town Center. “The City of Virginia Beach had the foresight back in the ’80s to designate this area as a Central Business District, with the idea that someday they would be able to attract someone such as ourselves in order to create what you see now,” says Armada Hoffler CEO Louis Haddad. “When we came along in 1999, the vision they had was something we believed in based on the demographics from the city, so we were able to come into a partnership pretty quickly, and within years we were able to break ground on the first phase. We’re now six phases in, working on the seventh, and the Center continues to expand and add new offerings. We’re very pleased with the way it turned out.”
Although Armada Hoffler also works on projects outside of the Coastal Virginia area, they still have a deep connection with Town Center and Virginia Beach. “We love this area—it’s our home,” says Haddad. “We’re doing business now in Atlanta, Charlotte, Charleston, Raleigh/Durham and Baltimore, and we think what we have here at home certainly rivals any of those places.”
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