Tidewater Rising Resiliency Design Challenge

Wetlands Watch, Hampton University, and Old Dominion University collaborated to develop flooding resiliency designs for Chesterfield Heights, a neighborhood in Norfolk, VA. The Norfolk region has been named the 10th most at risk from sea level rise of the world’s port cities by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This design proposal emphasizes adaptation solutions that protect the region’s coastal ecosystems, as well as conducting flooding and sea level rise adaptation at the street and parcel level.

Replicate this model of creating a design-challenge for street-level adaptation with full community involvement. 

The plan outlines four phases to mitigate flooding in the neighborhood:

  1. Addressing today’s flooding through the installation of Tideflex valve systems and other fixes to the neighborhood's aging stormwater pipe system.
  2. Installing a living shoreline to halt erosion and restore habitat while at the same time maintaining the neighborhood’s access to the waterfront.
  3. Utilizing low impact development stormwater systems, including installing bioretention systems, maintaining pervious pavers, and using basement cisterns (“base-terns”).
  4. Ultimately, elevating houses, which would provide an additional 75 years of protection.

Chesterfield Heights is a historic, middle-and-low income, civically-engaged, African American neighborhood that is vulnerable to both tidal and rainfall flooding.  The authors of the study involved people in the local community throughout the design process. This included listening sessions about flooding at the local community center, asking residents to fill out questionnaires about their flooding experiences, and adjusting their plans according to feedback from neighborhood residents. For example, residents were concerned about how traditional home elevation might endanger the neighborhood’s historic status, or diminish the neighborhood’s strong “porch culture,” so the research team adjusted its elevation design to include a gradual grade from street to home.

The designs in this study became part of the region’s proposal for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition, leading to a $120 million grant for the state of Virginia.


Publication Date: January 2016

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