Packs pause Fort Monroe redevelopment

Published 8:13 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

Smithfield’s Pack brothers have paused their plans to redevelop historic Fort Monroe in Hampton.

Bothers Randy and Brian Pack, who co-own and operate the Smithfield Station restaurant, hotel and marina in Smithfield and Surry Seafood Co., received a 40-year ground lease from the Fort Monroe Authority in 2021 to redevelop the southwestern edge of the former Army base that during the Civil War served as a Union refuge for formerly enslaved African Americans and once jailed former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. It’s the largest stone fortification ever built in the United States and, until its 2011 closure, was the last active-duty moat-encircled fort in the country.

The Packs had proposed repurposing the fort’s old torpedo storehouse, cable tank building and historic CAS Bindery into “37 North at Fort Monroe,” a development named for the fort’s latitude and longitude coordinates that would include a 500-seat waterfront restaurant, 90-room hotel, event center and 300-slip marina.

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Randy Pack told The Smithfield Times that the lease agreement had set milestones that, due to rising construction costs, “we just weren’t going to meet.”

Pack said he’d planned in 2021 for a $50 million investment. Today, the cost is pushing $75 million.

The floating docks he’d planned to install were budgeted in 2021 at $32 per square foot. Now, those same docks cost $44 per square foot.

“Whenever you do a project, you expect that your project is going to be a little over what you planned, but you can’t be 30% over … not with numbers like these,” Pack said.

The 37 North project isn’t dead; it’s just on hold. Pack said he’s continuing to negotiate with the Fort Monroe Authority to continue managing the existing marina while the brothers come up with a new plan.

“We have a very cordial relationship,” Pack said. “They’ve been nothing but advocates for us.”

“Even if we were beginning everything today, we’re four years away from being open and we’ve got to do better than that,” Pack said.