After more than two years of planning and renovations, a new Oceanfront police substation opened Tuesday in a former bar on Atlantic Avenue.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Police Chief Paul Neudigate told a crowd of supporters who attended a ribbon-cutting event Tuesday morning.
“When we had this vision a couple years back about reclaiming this property and turning what was probably one of the most problematic properties in Virginia Beach, not just the resort area, into something we can be proud of, and really getting a foothold in our community… This is the fruition,” Neudigate said before the group toured the substation, which is situated between popular nightclubs on what is referred to as “The Block.”
The space will be available to all first responders who work in the resort area. Police officers will be able to stop by during their patrol to complete paperwork and take a quick break.
William Haycox, co-owner of the substation unit on 21st Street, said he first reached out the city about it in early 2021 when the former tenant, The Boxx, left and he heard police were looking to increase their visibility in the resort area.
Then, after 10 people were shot nearby in March of that year, the city signed a five-year lease, with an option to renew for another five years.
“Even before my arrival, there’s always been talk of establishing a very visible footprint in the resort area for us,” Neudigate said in an interview after the ribbon cutting. “When the opportunity came, unfortunately after the March 26, 2021, incident, a tragedy no doubt, but as we always look out of tragedies, hopefully something good will come out of it.”
In 2022, funds for the renovation were approved and construction began, but it became a more costly project than originally anticipated, with a price tag of $849,047. The city made a one-time payment of $135,000 at the lease signing and pays $60,000 annually for rent.
Ballistic glass was recently installed in the front of the unit. The interior features work stations and a TV displaying live surveillance of resort area streets. The substation also has a conference room and a kitchen with an industrial-sized refrigerator and an icemaker, both of which were donated.
The walls are decorated with framed Neptune Festival posters through the years and surfboard art created by Sgt. Dan Herring of the 3rd Precinct, featuring the city’s first responder emblems.
While the substation was under construction, even though police weren’t yet using the building, the city installed a sign denoting its purpose on the front of the unit.
The department also installed additional surveillance cameras, lights and a gunshot detection system in the resort area. And Capt. Harry McBrien, who oversees the Oceanfront’s 2nd Precinct, started holding meetings with restaurant and bar owners to keep tabs on safety issues.
McBrien said there have been notable reductions in violent crime and shootings at the Oceanfront this year as a result of all of those measures.
State Sen. Bill DeSteph, who toured the substation Tuesday, said he’d like to see more police substations throughout the city.
“That projection of police presence is going to drive crime down,” DeSteph said.
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, email@example.com