The top business stories in Hampton Roads

The top business stories in Hampton Roads

As more and more vaccines and boosters went into arms in Hampton Roads and across the United States, the business world reached a state of somewhat normalcy since the start of the pandemic.

Issues that dominated headlines before the pandemic once again made news, such as the continued rise of Amazon and the decline of traditional retail stores. Other old trends emerged, too, with inflation, higher interest rates and rising housing costs regaining prominence as pandemic relief efforts ended.

Here’s a look at the five biggest Hampton Roads business stories of 2022.

From the cost of groceries to the price of renting, it became more costly to live in Hampton Roads and much of America in 2022 as inflation took hold. The inflation rate peaked at 9.1% in June, the largest year-over-year increase in the price of goods in more than 40 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure decreased slightly to 7.1% in November. The price of a gallon of milk increased almost 15% to $4.22 in November, compared with $3.67 a year ago.

In Hampton Roads, it became significantly more expensive to rent a home or apartment. Average market rents in Hampton Roads increased 20% since the start of 2020, said Jonathan Knopf of Housing Forward Virginia, an affordable housing group. In Chesapeake, the average rent of a one-bedroom apartment increased around 38% from September 2021 to $1,450, according to a report from Zumper, a housing rental search site.

Singer, rapper, entrepreneur, producer and Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams made several notable moves in Hampton Roads in 2022. He decided to bring back his Something in the Water music festival to the Oceanfront after a two-year absence. After a successful first year in spring 2019, the festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 before moving to Washington, D.C., this past year, where attendees experienced safety concerns such as overcrowding, according to a report from the WTOP radio station.

Williams also held the inaugural Mighty Dream Forum in downtown Norfolk in November. The three-day business conference was described by Williams as the region’s version of the World Economic Forum, a yearly event held in Davos, Switzerland, that makes international headlines. At Mighty Dream, big-name attendees included Williams, rapper Pusha-T, Miami nightclub developer David Grutman, retired astronaut Leland Melvin and comedian Hannibal Buress, among others.

Amazon held a grand opening for its new Suffolk fulfillment center on Oct. 20. The building features almost 13 miles of conveyor belts and is the second largest building in Virginia behind the Pentagon.

The online retail giant Amazon continued to expand its Hampton Roads delivery network with several projects. The company opened both a 3.8-million-square-foot robot-powered fulfillment center in Suffolk in October and a 640,000-square-foot Chesapeake facility in August. The two projects brought around 2,500 full-time and part-time employees to the region, along with a new bus route. As a result of Amazon, more industrial space was built in Hampton Roads in 2021 than in the preceding 10 years combined, said Lang Williams, executive vice president with Colliers Virginia.

Public documents and meetings also pointed toward plans to build a five-story, 650,000-square-foot distribution center in Virginia Beach near Naval Air Station Oceana. While Amazon has not been revealed as the end user, several contractors associated with the project also have previous experience with Amazon facilities.

The Children's Pavilion at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk on Sept. 28.

Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters opened a $224 million Norfolk mental health hospital for outpatient care in April and inpatient care in October. The new Children’s Pavilion expanded the hospital’s mental health capacity from a single pediatric psychiatrist in 2018 to 19 pediatric psychiatrists working as part of a staff of 400 by October. The first 12 inpatient beds are operational , and the other 48 beds will be available by the middle of next year. The center also offers outpatient mental health therapy, primary care, a sports medicine clinic and lab and radiology services.

“We broke ground with an urgency to tackle the waves of fear and anxiety and depression that were sending our children to the emergency department,” CHKD President and CEO Jim Dahling said in October.

Pembroke Realty Group, developers for the $200 million project, plan to turn 54 acres of the Virginia Beach mall area into a mixed-use destination named Pembroke Square.

Continuing a trend years in the making, Hampton Roads malls plotted redevelopment plans toward multiuse facilities as traditional retail stores continued to close or move out of shopping centers. The owners of Pembroke Mall, the region’s first enclosed mall in Virginia Beach, detailed plans for Pembroke Square, a $200 million redevelopment through 2025 with a 12-story apartment building, 14-story hotel and a senior living community. Interior mall stores closed by the end of January, and while shops relocated, many larger retailers remain open through the development.

Chesapeake Square owners chose not to renew anchor store JCPenney’s lease in 2021 because of plans to spend $20 million to redevelop the western half of the complex over the next two years.

Finally, the city of Norfolk lurched toward a deal with Pharrell Williams and other codevelopers interested in creating an arena and other facilities at the location of Military Circle mall. City officials told the Pilot in November they were “making good progress” toward a final deal with Williams’ team. The proposal would create a $1.1 billion mixed-use development with a 200-room hotel, more than 1,100 new housing units and a 16,000-seat arena. The mall is in the process of closing to the public by the end of January, and the city plans to start demolition in early 2023.

Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345,