Come Home to Norfolk

Feb 06

[ARCHIVED] Residents and Business Owners are the heart of Norfolk’s Resilience

The original item was published from April 13, 2018 12:16 PM to February 6, 2024 9:01 AM

As the Office of Resilience continues to guide the city’s efforts in building the coastal community of the future, we are fueled by the efforts of residents and local business owners who are actively building resilience in their neighborhoods. By taking on small-scale green infrastructure projects at home or work, the Norfolk residents mentioned below are active participants in a city-wide, systemic approach to water management that aligns with the city’s Retain Your Rain initiative. 


Team Norfolk thanks the residents mentioned below, and all Norfolk residents who are retaining rain and building resilience throughout our city!


Resilience through Gardening
fawn street garden shed
fawn street garden
Tucked away on the corner of 25th and Fawn Street, the Fawn Street Community Garden serves as a space for growing food and flowers and connecting with nature. One of the many ways the garden is building neighborhood resilience is by retaining the rainwater runoff of neighboring buildings with two rain barrels, one 125-gallon barrel donated by Keep Norfolk Beautiful and another provided by the property owner. The rainwater is then used to water the garden. 

The garden has been managed by a Norfolk master gardener for the last two years. She has helped the garden become a Norfolk Master Gardener approved program, built relationships with neighbors and residents who work at surrounding businesses, and donated 10% of the produce grown. 
Volunteer Event
This spring, the Norfolk Master Gardeners hosted a volunteer workshop day for the community to get their hands dirty planting herbs; painting the tool shed; and learning all about fresh food, rain barrels, and neighborhood beautification. 

After learning about the many benefits of rain barrels, volunteers entered their names into a raffle drawing to win a 125-gallon barrel. Congratulations to these new Norfolk homeowners who are now retaining their rain thanks to Bay Star Homes and Keep Norfolk Beautiful!
rain barrel winners

 Resilience in the Commercial District

In the heart of Historic Ghent, Serendip is a boutique within the Palace Shops that offers more than beautiful home furnishings. The owners also set a great example of managing stormwater and nuisance flooding in the 21st century. 

Rainwater runoff is caused by impervious surfaces like roofing or pavement that water can only travel across, not penetrate. An urban waterfront city, Norfolk has a lot of impervious surface that contributes to flooding by overwhelming the stormwater system, especially in the Downtown and Ghent neighborhoods.


serendip shop


Rainwater runoff from the Serendip building was pooling in the parking lot, creating a nuisance flooding issue that was impacting business. In 2015, property owners Claus Ihlemann and Robert Roman creatively tackled the issue by installing a French drain next to the building to give the rainwater a place to slowly infiltrate into the ground. They also redirected the downspouts of the building to a garden bed and away from the street for additional infiltration of the rainwater runoff. Finally, they installed a three-foot-deep drainage bed under a brick walkway that leads to the building entrance. 
 Downspout redirection Downspout Redirection

The results?
  • 50% of rainwater runoff from the roof is infiltrated into the ground instead of into the street.
  • 30% of rainwater runoff from the parking lot is absorbed into the ground.
Ihlemann and Roman are pleased with the success of these projects in reducing nuisance flooding at the boutique. Bravo for exemplifying resilience in the commercial district! 

Resilience in the Business District 
Welligent, an electronic health records company, has taken a similar approach to stormwater management. On Colley Avenue, not far from the Lafayette River, Welligent was also experiencing nuisance flooding in their parking lot. With the help of Elizabeth River Project and volunteers, they installed a rain garden next to the parking lot. The garden now absorbs about half of the rainwater that runs off the building’s roof. 
 rain garden volunteers

To finish the project, the team installed a 275-gallon rain tote to retain the rest of the rainwater runoff from the roof. Rain totes are large rain barrels that work well for commercial properties. The water collected by the rain tote has many uses, including supplying water for the neighbor’s vegetable garden. Read more about the project, here.
rain garden

You, too, can be a resilience hero and make a positive difference in our city. To explore how to start your own Retain Your Rain project, visit our website and use our Retain Your Rain app to calculate how much rainwater runoff your property creates. You will also find information about projects that you can undertake at home and work.