On February 9, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that $1 million in grants from the Port Host Communities Revitalization Fund (PHCRF) will help regenerate Virginia’s oyster industry by renovating the Menchville Marina in Newport News, revitalize the vacant and obsolete 57,792-square-foot Willis Building in Norfolk, and stimulate the local economy by redeveloping the derelict and abandoned 51-acre Lovett Point property in Portsmouth for industrial use.
“With these three projects, we are making important investments that will help ensure our global economy continues to flow through Hampton Roads,” said Governor Northam.
“Transforming poorly functioning and unused structures not only promotes job growth and new opportunities, it will also improve the quality of life for all those who visit, live, and work in these communities,” he added.
The General Assembly allocated $1 million in PHCRF grants for fiscal year 2021 to assist with removing, renovating, or modernizing port-related buildings and facilities in Virginia’s five port host communities, which are the town of Front Royal and the cities of Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond.
The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development administers the funding, which requires a 100 percent match from public or private sources, leveraging diverse resources for the redevelopment of derelict structures, spurring long-term employment opportunities, and ongoing physical and economic revitalization.
Financial barriers often block the timely redevelopment of these structures, which require more than local resources to attract private-sector investment, and this is especially true in distressed commercial corridors. Eligible properties may be redeveloped for any market-driven purpose (including mixed-use), regardless of the original use.
“The PHCRF grants will add great value to community development efforts and create jobs in Newport News, Norfolk, and Portsmouth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Currently, these sites are a deterrent to economic development in the surrounding port host areas and regions, and now they will be part of the attraction efforts.”
This round of PHCRF grants follows an additional $1 million awarded in fiscal year 2020, which included funding to support initial improvements at the Menchville Marina and to redevelop the Norfolk Railyard at Lambert’s Point and a former coal plant in Portsmouth.
2021 PHCRF Grant Awards:
City of Newport News | Menchville Marina
The City of Newport News will receive a grant for the second phase of improvements at the Menchville Marina, the primary facility serving watermen working the James River. The marina is one of the largest oyster landing sites in Virginia, houses more than 90 boats, and employs 225 watermen. Phase two will include the installation of three floating dock systems to increase mooring options and improve the functionality for the watermen.
New pilings, commercial grade floating docks, and associated gangways will be installed, and old docks, debris, and pilings will be removed. The project will bring the docks to current code standards, build permanent restroom facilities, and will include the installation of approximately 380 feet of riprap to stabilize the shoreline.
City of Norfolk | Willis Building
The City of Norfolk will receive a grant to redevelop the vacant Willis Building, a 32-year-old, 57,792-square-foot building on Church Street purchased by the Norfolk Economic Development Authority (EDA) in 2019.
The EDA is currently reviewing development proposals, which include the renovation of the building for retail and office space, potentially for the City of Norfolk’s Department of Human Services, as well as for affordable housing. Although the project is still in the planning stages, the City anticipates that either proposal will generate at least 20 new jobs.
City of Portsmouth | Lovett Point
The City of Portsmouth will receive a grant to redevelop the 51-acre Lovett Point site, which includes the decommissioned BASF Chemical plant, for port-related industrial uses. The site is owned by Thomas Industrial LLC (TI), in partnership with its parent company, Marathon Development Group (MDG).
These two entities will work to restore the site, which will include asbestos abatement, demolition and removal of all existing buildings and foundations, and site preparation to allow for marketing and the redevelopment of the property. MDG and TI will market the property for industrial development to include uses such as warehouse, distribution and logistics, cold storage, and manufacturing.
The removal of the derelict and abandoned plant buildings from the property will make valuable industrial real estate available for development. The project is estimated to provide between 50 and 100 permanent new full-time jobs.
Photo of Lovett Point courtesy of Virginia DHCD.