After seven years of debate, event site starts to take shape

By on December 21, 2014

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The site will be elevated no more than 8 feet. (Rob Morris)

Dump trucks and heavy machinery are starting to shape the old Windmill Point property into an evolving multi-purpose outdoor venue on the Nags Head soundfront.

The first of four phases of construction is underway on the site, which was originally purchased by the town of Nags Head and the Dare County Tourism Board with visions of a convention center and possibly a hotel.

But with public opinion weighing heavily against more concrete and buildings, planning slowly moved away from a full-scale convention facility, to a smaller multi-purpose center, and finally to an open-air venue that preserves the broad waterfront vista along U.S. 158.

The main feature of the first phase will be an improved and landscaped entrance. With a circle at the end and a canopied area, the drive will be divided by an island and will run along the existing entrance path. More elevation will eliminate the huge dip at U.S. 158.

A deceleration lane will be carved from southbound U.S. 158. A second lane will serve as an additional shuttle stop when needed.

“That’ll make it much easier to accommodate large events,” said Lee Nettles, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

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A Pavilion is planned in future years. (Outer Banks Visitors Bureau)

Engineers had to tweak the plans before getting the go-ahead from the Nags Head Board of Commissioners in September.

Phase 1 work includes adding fill to elevate the property no more than 8 feet. Construction of a storm-water retention system will also get started.

The area north of the entrance will be reinforced to firm up the ground while still allowing grass to grow. Other infrastructure will be installed, as well.

Work is being done by Barnhill Contracting Co. for $1.99 million, which was under budget, Nettles said. Including planning and engineering work, the total cost of Phase 1 will be $2.9 million.

Debate has focused on the site ever since the old Windmill Point restaurant shut down in 2007 and the property was subsequently bought by the Town of Nags Head and the Tourism Board.

A report compiled by engineering firm Heery International for the tourism board concluded that a hotel and conference center offered the best potential for a return on investment.

But tourism officials decided that financial return should not be the only consideration and moved forward with planning for the outdoor venue.

The biggest event at the unimproved site so far has been the Outer Banks Seafood Festival, which was held in the fall of the past two years.

Plans are to finish the latest work in plenty of time for the first large-scale event of 2015, the OBX Brew Fest at the end of May.


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