To prepare for, and respond proactively to, the shocks and stresses of the 21st century, cities around the world are thinking differently about reducing risk. Since the release of Norfolk’s Resilience Strategy in 2015, the City has been working to achieve our three resilience goals: design the coastal community of the future, create economic opportunity, and connect and strengthen neighborhoods. From green infrastructure projects that help reduce flood risk, to community financial fitness classes that build our city’s financial resilience, Norfolk is finding ways to build individual, community and city resilience. One of our newest projects is addressing brownfield properties through a resilience lens. A brownfield is a property whose future use may be complicated by the potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. An older, industrial city, Norfolk once housed industries that employed hazardous substances, some of which may have leached into the land. Many of these industries, including steel production, creosote plants and rail yards, were located on Norfolk’s waterfront, including in the Harbor Park area of the city. Originally, this brownfield site in Harbor Park was an estuary that was part of the downstream portion of Newton’s Creek. During the late 1870s and 1880s, the estuary was filled in and Newton’s Creek was channelized. By 1920, the estuary was transformed into land, with no obvious indication that it was once part of a creek. The maps below show the physical transformation of Harbor Park over the last three centuries.
Since 2015, Norfolk has been awarded $650,000 worth of brownfields assessment, planning, and consulting services for Harbor Park. The first grant awarded to the City in 2015 was an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment grant to determine potential redevelopment opportunities for key tracts of land in Harbor Park. This initial assessment wrapped up in 2016 and revealed that contamination issues are not significant enough to interfere with revitalization of the area. Work is currently underway for the second grant awarded to the City from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). This $50,000 planning grant is focused on Best Management Practices (BMPs) for creosote pilings, and the creation of a Resiliency Infrastructure Preliminary Constructability Plan to support redevelopment of the area. The majority of the planning for this grant is focused on the incorporation of green infrastructure and other public space components to enhance and protect using both hard infrastructure and nature-based features. The last two grants awarded to the City this year are both EPA funded grants totaling $500,000. One is focused on area wide planning that will help fund the research, planning, and implementation of specific strategies for brownfield cleanup and redevelopment. The second is an assessment grant focused on environmental assessments and the creation of strategic remediation and reuse plans. Both of these grants offer opportunities for stakeholder input and community involvement throughout the planning process.
By redeveloping and revitalizing brownfield properties, we can better use existing property to its maximum potential. These brownfield redevelopment efforts are moving us closer to our Resilience goals. Most importantly, these efforts are contributing to a more resilient Norfolk where our residents are proud to live, work, and play!