By Alex Laplaza
Pushing Back the Tides: Norfolk’s Past and Future of Coastal Resiliency
The 400-year history of Norfolk is one of resiliency. The city was razed during the American Revolution, scorched during the Civil War, and chronically flooded for over a century. In the face of both acute and long-term threats, Norfolk developed into the largest naval station in the world, the third largest port on the East Coast, and the home of the NATO’s Allied Command. This remarkable resilience earned Norfolk a spot in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative - 100RC. With the support of the 100RC Initiative, Norfolk unveiled the city’s first comprehensive resiliency strategy. The strategy is driven by three primary objectives, each outlined by supporting strategies and actions.
Norfolk’s first goal is to “design a coastal community of the future.” Norfolk’s 144 miles of coastline are highly vulnerable to increasing sea level rise (SLR) and recurrent coastal flooding. In response, the city is identifying innovative infrastructure for water management and redesigning regulation in order to implement its vision. Outlined means to achieve this include partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on a comprehensive flood risk study, combining hard and natural systems to better control flooding, and developing resilient zoning codes.
The city’s second goal is to “create economic opportunity by advancing efforts to grow existing and new industry sectors.” The city developed a multi-pronged development strategy that aims to nurture the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, strengthen the workforce development pipeline, reinvest in and revitalize neighborhoods, and explore innovative financing methods.
Thirdly, Norfolk aims to “advance initiatives to connect communities, deconcentrate poverty, and strengthen neighborhoods.” Outlined strategies include the launch of a state-of-the-art resilience dashboard, education on risks and resources in order to keep persons and property safe during storms, and collaboration with residents to map neighborhood assets.
Norfolk’s vision of resiliency reaches beyond these three goals and beyond its geographical area. Leveraging the resources and expertise of other 100RC network cities, Norfolk is taking initiative to establish a global practice on water innovation and partnerships to create innovations in resilience. Michael Berkowitz, President of the 100RC Initiative, lauded this effort: “Norfolk’s Resilience work is having an impact far beyond America, too. Norfolk was one of the first members of 100RC, and has been helping us build a global practice ever since.” Norfolk’s history of resilience has promulgated into its present and its future. This resilience is now being folded into a network of resilient cities worldwide.
For more information, contact Alex Laplaza at firstname.lastname@example.org.