Norfolk, Virginia Resilience Strategy

The City of Norfolk, Virginia released its Resilience Strategy in October 2015 to address the three major challenges facing the city today including sea level rise and recurrent flooding; a shifting economy; and a need to build strong, healthy neighborhoods. The report proposes high-level strategies and actions to address a wide range of challenges the city faces, focusing on sea level rise and broader risks such as an over-reliance on limited industrial or economic sectors and concentrated poverty.  This plan was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative.

The strategy report begins with a discussion of Norfolk’s past and current development.  Norfolk is a port city that is also home to Naval Station Norfolk, the two main pillars of its economy. Access to water created Norfolk’s comparative advantage, but is also a source of risk. Norfolk has a long history of flooding and now faces the highest rate of relative sea level rise on the East Coast. The city predicts that nuisance tidal flooding and more frequent storms will threaten the city.

The document articulates three broad goals that serve as a framework for its overall resilience strategy:

Goal 1: Design the Coastal Community of the Future

Goal 2: Create Economic Opportunity by Advancing Efforts to Grow Existing Industries and New Sectors

Goal 3: Advance Initiatives to Connect Communities, Deconcentrate Poverty, and Strengthen Neighborhoods

The first goal of creating a “coastal community of the future” is climate focused as related to projected sea level rise, extreme storms and flooding. The report explains that Norfolk must reevaluate its design and learn to embrace water. To do this, the strategy outlines the following steps:

  1. Carry out a community-based planning effort;
  2. Conduct an assessment of water-management infrastructure;
  3. Create a “place where people want to live” by branding the city, retaining talent, and enlivening commercial corridor; and
  4. Redesign regulations and tools to meet future needs.  This includes rewriting the zoning code to be “the new gold standard” in resilience and land use planning, and creating a rapid housing recovery model that the city can draw on following a disaster.

As part of its second goal - to create economic opportunity - the city recognizes that it must diversify its economy beyond its military ties, take steps to enhance the port, make a concerted effort to nurture new business and entrepreneurship, strengthen workforce development, and focus on neighborhood revitalization.

With respect to its third goal - connecting and strengthening neighborhoods - the strategy describes efforts to improve citizen access to information through a resilience dashboard, supporting community-building efforts that leverage technology, and working with the community through conversation.

Many of these efforts are already underway. For each proposed action the strategy report lists a timeline and describes any partnerships that are supporting the goal. 



Publication Date: October 28, 2015

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