An armory is a building in which weapons and munitions of a city are stored. At least that’s the plain definition. Often, they are places where Tommy Dreamer gets beat up. Not in the city of Hampton, Va., by god, where city officials have taken the first step toward transforming the 80-year-old Hampton Armory into a place that stores the ultimate weapon: beer.
A development company formed by partners in Norfolk-based Spacemakers Inc. — a general contracting company with years of experience across Hampton Roads, including the recent construction of breweries in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Newport News — has submitted plans that would include separate areas for the brewery, a distillery, a restaurant and live entertainment venue. The whole complex would be dubbed The Vanguard. Pretty great name and concept.
John Randal Thomas, managing member of the new developer, said he went to a December walk-through of the Armory thinking he might find someone looking for a contractor. An hour later he left with his own plans for the property.
“Hampton has a real appeal for me,” Thomas said. “I saw an opportunity to create something that I enjoy.” Thomas said he and his partner, Bjorn Marshall, plan to maintain the historic nature of the Armory while building what they hope will become a premier destination in the city.
“I am very excited to see one of our historic buildings take on a new life,” said Mayor George Wallace. “This project will be a destination asset in our diverse downtown.”
The developer’s proposal “detailed a unique venue that will complement the growing food and arts scene downtown,” said Leonard Sledge, Hampton’s director of Economic Development. The combined experience of the new development team and their partners was also very compelling, Sledge said.
The new developer was one of two companies that responded to the city’s “request for proposals” late last year. The request sought an experienced operator or developer who would reuse the 14,000-square foot building as a craft brewery, distillery or live entertainment venue.
Proposals were reviewed by a committee that included representatives from the city’s Planning and Economic Development departments, the city attorney’s office, the city manager’s office and the city’s Procurement office. Hampton officials said the developer’s proposal was selected because it most closely aligned with recommendations found in the Downtown Hampton Master Plan.
The developer received an “intent to award” letter from the city this week. After a 10-day waiting period, that letter converts to a bid award and plans for the development project and sale of the building will be finalized.