Emmitt Smith, Bruce Thompson and others are doing their best to revamp Norfolk’s military circle

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Nearly six months after the proposals were first released, Norfolk City Council is hearing in-person presentations from the three development teams vying to transform the current Military Circle Mall.

On Thursday, two groups known as Crossroads Partnership LLC and Norfolk MC Associates LLC each presented the city council with their plans to demolish the aging mall and in its place build everything from entertainment venues to housing.

The two used everything they had to figure out why their proposition is superior.

Former NFL star Emmitt Smith opened the Crossroads Partnership presentation saying, “I know we’ve assembled the best-in-class team to play and put in the work to win Military Circle.”

Smith’s team also includes SB Ballard Construction Company, ASM Global and Sports Facilities Companies.

Their proposal includes the construction of a sports complex, offices for Sentara Health and Optima Insurance, a hotel, nearly 1,000 multi-family units, including 100 affordable units.

The anchor would be a 15,000-seat arena run by ASM, a major arena operator.

Chuck Steedman, executive vice president of strategy for ASM Global, touted his company’s already strong relationships within the entertainment and sports industry. ASM operates arenas in which 14 NBA and NHL teams currently reside.

“We don’t just create this in the air,” Steedman said. “They want to look at this area, I promise we’ll be the first to know and we’ll find a way to work with them.”

The proposal must be privately funded.

Steve Ballard, president of SB Ballard Construction, said he could open the arena by May 2026.

“I think everyone in this room knows I can make that happen,” Ballard said.

The proposal said the entire project would be privately funded, providing an opportunity for “African-American investors,” said Vernon Marrow, president and CEO of E Smith Legacy.

City Council met behind closed doors to discuss specific financial information with the Smith and Ballard team.

“We have nothing to hide, we are transparent,” Gold Key PHR CEO Bruce Thompson said several hours later when given the same opportunity.

Thompson, a top promoter in the area, leads a team that seeks to bring “The Well” to the site of the Military Circle.

Thompson’s team, which includes Norfolk State University, WM Jordan and the Miller Group, proposes to build a Sentara Healthcare ‘wellness village’, a ‘world-class recreation centre’, a grocery store and 864 multi-family housing units.

Unlike the other two proposals, which propose to anchor the site with an arena, Thompson proposes that the anchor be a green space with an amphitheater.

He deduced that without a professional sports team, the success of failure was high.

“We just felt it would be difficult, difficult. Norfolk is expected to provide up to $100 million,” Thompson said.

Thompson is asking for new field tax revenue to help fundraise for nearly three decades.

On Saturday, the city council will meet the team led by Pharrell Williams.

A recommended developer should be presented to City Council by the spring.

About Darnell Yu

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