The effort to win over hearts and minds of a divided community continues for developers of the proposed Bristol Resort and Casino. 

“The public needs to be informed as to what we’re doing and we’re doing our best to get that message out through multiple media sources,” said Martin Kent, president of The United Company. 

Over the last several weeks, developers have launched a television ad, penned an open letter, donated to a Republican political action committee and released a floor plan laying out how the vacant Bristol Mall may become a hub of economic activity.

News Channel 11 got an inside look at the space Wednesday. 

They said the casino would occupy what used to be a JCPenny, only ten percent of the total space. 

The rest of the mall would be divided into a convention center, an amusement center, a spa and up to 50 small businesses, developers said. 

They’ve already starting reaching out to small business owners on social media who may be interested in setting up shop. 

“The hope would be that we could bring in businesses that are unique to the area. Not the stores that you’d find at a typical mall,” Kent said.

They said they also plan to build a hotel on site to accommodate casino visitors and large businesses who they hope will host conferences at the convention center. 

Despite community concerns about increases in crime, poverty and various mental health disorders, developers believe the inclusion of a casino is critical for their success. “That really would be the draw to the area. That’s the unique aspect of this resort and casino, something that doesn’t exist anywhere within the region,” Kent said. 

The casino project cannot move forward unless the Virginia General Assembly changes state law, which currently bans casino-style gambling.