This drone image shows Marlboro Ave., running between two of Norfolk's most flood-vulnerable neighborhoods. Photo courtesy of City of Norfolk.

Norfolk Flood Resilience Project to Transform Neighborhood Waterfront

Communities throughout the Chesapeake Bay are dealing with increased flooding, and Norfolk often gets just about the worst of it.

Most of the time, solutions include berms, habitat restoration, walls, and pumps. But Norfolk is taking a larger-scale approach in its Grandy Village and Chesterfield Heights neighborhoods, along the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River.

Yearly flooding has led to inaccessible roads, shoreline erosion, and isolation for these neighborhoods, according to the city. There are just two roads to access Grandy Village and Chesterfield Heights, and one of them becomes completely impassible when tidal flooding or heavy rain takes place.

Chesterfield Heights has 400 homes on the National Historic Register. Grandy Village includes a public housing community. Both neighborhoods are old and suffer from multiple issues in addition to flooding and erosion.

Norfolk went all-in and decided to address as many of the problems at once as possible. Called the Ohio Creek Project, this holistic approach addresses flooding as well infrastructure, economic, and other community problems.
There will be berms and pumping stations, but there will be so much more.

A rendering of the planned Resilience Park, which will provides community space and reduce flooding at the same time. Photo courtesy of City of Norfolk.

Roads will be elevated and improved. Utilities, including sewer and potable water lines, will be replaced or upgraded. The “centerpiece” of the project is called Resilience Park, which includes a large open multipurpose field, and even a community garden. Residents can work out at the fitness station, or wet a line at the proposed fishing pier. The project goes way beyond flood control.

The Ohio Creek Project is funded by a $112 million federal grant. The city used community contact and involvement while designing the plan. Norfolk held multiple planning events during the early design phase, and included all stakeholders in the design process. The project is scheduled for completion in 2023.

During the ground breaking in early 2020, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander said the Ohio Creek Project, “strengthens our coastal resilience, creates innovative storm water management solutions, and unites communities. This transformational project sets in motion our plans to protect our historic and diverse neighborhoods.”

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Kendall Osborne