Norfolk waterfront getting new look, recreation space as part of years-long floodwall plan

Norfolk’s most flood-prone areas will get more than 8 miles of new or extended floodwalls, more pump stations along rivers to carry away storm deluges and home improvements funds with a $2.3 billion plan.

The Coastal Storm Risk Management Project will be completed in five phases over the next decade and is aimed at protecting some of the city’s more critical areas, including downtown’s business and cultural hub, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and the surrounding medical complex, Norfolk International Terminals and Lambert’s Point on the west and historic districts including Chesterfield Heights.

Town Point Park can still be used during construction and the “same or more” recreational space will remain at the end, said Kristin Mazur, program manager for the project.

The city and Army Corps of Engineers started the planning phase last year and will have public meetings in the summer or fall before construction begins in 2024. The project already has received almost $400 million in federal funds, including the $25 million Norfolk got in January, according to the city website.

The first phase covers work from Ghent along the Elizabeth River to the Ohio Creek watershed in the Chesterfield Heights and Grandy Village area. The corps and the city have designed about 65% — it is split into four sections:

  • Part A: The plan would construct a levee — usually an earthen ridge or hill — from the Berkley Bridge to the Harbor Park pump station; a series of concrete flood walls would extend from Harbor Park to Campostella Road near Claiborne Avenue near Interstate 264 and two new pump stations, one at Harbor Park and one near the mouth of Newton’s Creek. People will be able to bike and walk along paths on and at the base of the levee. Harbor Park and the area for the new casino are not included.

  • Part B: The Waterside District’s plaza will be demolished for one with a higher elevation. (Waterside District will remain open during construction.) The wall attached to the plaza along the Elizabeth will stretch under the Berkley Bridge and connect with the levee at Harbor Park. The amphitheater between the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel and Dominion Tower will be razed and a pump station placed there along with a series of terraces.

“One of our goals is not to obstruct the views of people,” Mazur said. “We want them to keep enjoying the water.”

  • Part C will include the area from Town Point Park to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

  • Part D includes additional work on the existing downtown floodwall and won’t start until 2025 and 2026. The project is expected to be completed in 2032.

The city also is working on St. Paul’s Blue-Greenway Drainage Improvement project, a related effort to improve drainage by providing a place to store runoff. The plan is to convert about 26 acres of the recently vacated Tidewater Gardens and other properties to a wetlands and recreation area.

Planning for the second phase includes a surge barrier at Pretty Lake to prevent flooding along Shore Drive; work will not begin until 2024. Phase three includes a surge barrier for the Lafayette River; work will not begin until 2027. Phase four includes barriers and floodgates on Broad Creek near I-264 and will not begin until 2028.

With phase five there are about 1,000 homes that can be placed on higher foundations or have basements filled. Initially, there was discussion of buyouts and relocating residents, but this likely will not happen, said Kyle Spencer, the city’s chief resilience officer. The plan includes areas such as Berkley, Campostella, Elizabeth Park, Ingleside and Willoughby

The city will use a pilot program beginning with 80 homes. The program will provide money for the temporary relocation during foundation work.

Everett Eaton, 262-902-7896,