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5/31 Memorial finalists present design ideas for permanent tribute

Dills Architects & SWA and RHI & Kirkland Studios made their case for how they want to transform the lot off Nimmo Pkwy and Princess Anne Rd to honor the victims.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The 5/31 Memorial Committee got their first glimpse of what the permanent marker honoring the victims of the municipal center shooting could look like. 

The committee still needs to pick a design firm to lead the project and Thursday night, they saw proposals from the final two candidates. Each one, trying to capture the magnitude of that day.

In 2019, a city employee shot and killed 12 people inside Building 2 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. 

From the beginning, the committee said they want to see "a sense of peace" in the design.

Dills Architects with SWA and RHI and Kirkland Studios made their case for how they want to transform the parking lot off Nimmo Parkway and Princess Anne Road to honor the victims, first responders and survivors.

"Celebrating these wonderful lives that were lived," said Clay Dills.

The first firm to present was Dills Architects with SWA.

They said visitors would be greeted by a stone wall with lines representing the lives lived by the 12 victims.

They highlighted their idea of a "Survivor’s Grove" with Dogwood trees and Forget-me-nots.

A "Hero Tree" would also honor the first responders who were at Building 2 the day of the shooting.

A reflecting pool would lead visitors to the memorial wall with the names the 12 victims.

"We felt strongly about reflection, about the paths that people take to reflect," said Dills.

When the sun sets, they said 150 lights will turn on to symbolize the 150 years of combined public service from those lost.

Some of the images left committee members in tears.

"It’s beautiful," said Cozy Livas. "I started crying because it’s like everything we said."

Up next was Rhodeside Harwell and Larry Kirkland highlighting what they hope will become a "symbol of Virginia Beach."

They presented "Remembrance Walls" at the entryway, with a Forget-me-not engraved on a large stone, leading into a woodland garden.

An elevated boardwalk would lead visitors to their centerpiece, the V-shaped memorial with water walls.

The glass panels would have the names of the victims etched in under the water.

"You have a heavy lift to create a beautiful, enduring memorial that’s going to be with you forever and we’re up for the challenge," said Elliott Rhodeside.

"The memorial is really majestic and lovely," said committee member Charlotte Zito.

At the end, committee members said they have a lot to think about.

Now you have your chance to give your opinion on the proposals and firms through a survey. That will be posted Friday morning on SpeakupVB.com. The survey will close March 23.

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