NORFOLK-- A long-awaited hotel and conference center project may be finally getting off the ground in downtown Norfolk.

The progress, albeit small, has some downtown Norfolk business owners happy.

'I'm glad to see them revisiting it, because initially that was the thought a few years ago. Then the economy stalled, and the project was put on hold,' said Baxter Simmons, a Norfolk restaurant owner.

The plans for the project on the corner of Main and Granby streets are in their preliminary stages.

Council member Andy Protogyrou says the proposed hotel and conference center is a crucial part of the revamped Waterside puzzle. 'Waterside won't survive without the conference center. The conference center won't survive without a Waterside entertainment district.'

For the past decade, the city has been saving to build a conference center, with about $ 56 million set aside. Protogyrou hopes Norfolk will be able to win business over other local cities. ''It's easier to sell downtown Norfolk to a conference, if you can say look at our entertainment on the water.'

Virginia Beach developer Bruce Thompson has shown interest in site. His company, Gold Key PHR, has developed much of the Oceanfront, including the Hilton hotel.

City council is expected to meet later this month to learn more details on the proposal.

'We don't have specifics about the project, like what the center will look like or how many rooms. It's so early in the process,' council member Tommy Smigiel explained.

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