Newport News buys former nuisance Mirage nightclub and surrounding property

TidewaterBiz

Three Denbigh area properties are set to meet their fate with the wrecking ball, including a dilapidated retail center that once housed a raucous nightclub in the 1990s.

Florence G. Kingston, director of Newport News' Department of Development, told members of its economic and industrial development authorities Friday that it secured the purchase of three contiguous parcels at 15401, 15407 and 15411 Warwick Boulevard.

Newport News economic officials, who authorized the transaction during a June 6 meeting, closed on the properties Thursday with members of the John B. Babbs Trust, which owned the property, for $928,775, Kingston said.

The money was allocated from the city's capital improvement fund, and was nearly $60,000 more than the current assessed values for all three properties, according to Newport News tax records.

All three sites are zoned for commercial development. Economic officials are working with Newport News Public Works to demolish the properties in the coming months.

"It was a voluntary transaction," Kingston told the board during its directors meeting at City Center. "There are no tenants in the building … we're already coordinating the demo of the properties."

As part of the transaction, the economic development authority now owns a 1.34-acre parking lot at 15411 Warwick Blvd. that is currently used by trailer trucks. It also owns a 4,217-square-foot vacant office building on a 0.31-acre site at 15401 Warwick Blvd. that once housed a barber's college.

The purchase also marks the end of a vacant 14,818-square-foot shopping center at 15407 Warwick Blvd. that once housed The Mirage nightclub.

The Mirage nightclub, a nuisance to some Denbigh area residents since the early 1990s when the club first opened as The Nile, closed in 2000 after the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board determined that the club's owner had maintained a disorderly venue, disturbed the peace and kept fraudulent business records. It was also the site where in 1998, a Newport News man was shot and killed inside the club.

Since the club's closure, the site, which also included retail and restaurant space, went through a series of tenants. The center has been vacant for years.

The final blow was in 2010, when an arsonist set The Mirage nightclub on fire — leaving much of the building unhabitable.

Boarded up and heavily damaged, the center remains an eyesore along a heavily-traveled corridor city officials say is an important gateway to the heart of Newport News.

"It does not create a desirable image along this corridor," Kingston said of the properties fronting Warwick Boulevard.

With the purchase, economic officials are hoping to stabilize and rehabilitate the site with new development. It is a key pillar in the city's Upper Warwick Boulevard Corridor Initiative, which seeks to revitalize the aging area with new development, redevelopment and beautification efforts.

"Right now, our focus is to get the site ready and stabilize the area," Kingston said, adding that development officials hope to work with private developers to help bring mixed-use or commercial projects to the site. "At some point we may work to improve the entrance to the area."

O'Neal can be reached by phone at 757-247-4744.

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