Rezoning Pitched For Commercial Lots Near Bristol VA Casino

Written By Adam Hensley on April 4, 2023
virginia casinos bristol hard rock commercial rezoning tennessee

Land near the Bristol casino that was originally intended for residential properties could soon transform into commercial lots.

It’s not official just yet, but that’s what owner J.S. Roberts Jr. wants to see out of his vacant three acres. Roberts’ land resides off Grove Park Drive, near the Virginia casino, which is technically in Tennessee, on the border of Virginia.

After looking it over, the Planning Commission opted to send the proposal to City Council for a public hearing in April.

As of now, the land is designated as R-2, single and two-family residential. Roberts’ rezoning efforts would transform the lots to B-3 general business.

Why it ‘makes sense’ for rezoning land near Virginia casino

The Planning Commission reviewed Roberts’ presentation this week. Daniel Shew, chair of the commission, told the Bristol Herald Courier that he didn’t have any issues with Roberts’ proposed idea. In fact, he said connecting it from the Virginia side makes “perfect sense.”

“It makes more sense if the casino or someone else were to purchase the property and it were to connect from the Virginia side. That (Tennessee) access wouldn’t be needed anymore and that would make perfect sense.”

Not only do casinos rack up revenue within the property, but gambling results in dollars spent in the surrounding area. So it makes sense to capitalize on the potential dollars in the area.

Susan Long, one of the commission’s members, told the Herald Courier that rezoning “makes sense” for that area.

Casino gambling is relatively new to Virginia, but it’s quickly catching on. And with its rise in popularity comes a new chapter for the Commonwealth.

“That whole area is changing fast,” Shew told the Herald Courier.

No concrete plans for homes ahead of rezoning effort

Attorney Randy Kennedy represents Roberts. At the meeting, he shared that he didn’t have “any idea” about the land’s plans in the near future.

“I don’t know if he had an offer. I know when it was lots, he had people talk to him about putting houses there, but he has no offer on the table right now.”

The Bristol casino property is clearly visible just across from the site, so it makes sense to connect it to the location. However, there are some existing homes on the same street in Tennessee. And that’s Shew’s lone concern when it comes to what to do with the land.

“The only thing I think we need to consider is the houses that do exist on the street, to make sure it would not negatively impact them.”

Full-service Hard Rock casino will generate jump in revenue for Bristol area

Virginia saw this happen when Rivers Casino Portsmouth — the state’s first full-service facility — opened earlier this year. In its first full month of operation, the Porstmouth casino generated $24.7 million in revenue. Bristol Casino — Future Home of Hard Rock, meanwhile, accounted for the remaining $13.7 million of the state’s revenue total of $38.4 million.

Point being, customers flocked to the new location, and rightfully so. Casino-goers loved the new $340 million facility, which offered the latest games and plenty of space.

It’s safe to assume that when Bristol’s full-service Hard Rock location opens in the spring of 2024, we’ll see a similar result. The temporary facility offers 890 slot machines, 29 table games and a sportsbook. The 300,000-square-foot, full-serivce Hard Rock location will house 1,300 slot machines, 50 table games and a sportsbook, too. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol will feature plenty of food and drink options as well.

In turn, experts project the economic impact of the final project to result in more than four million visitors and $1 billion for the Bristol area each year.

Photo by Earl Neikirk / AP Photo
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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