On December 29, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced $1.5 million in Port Host Communities Revitalization Fund awards for the cities of Newport News, Norfolk and Portsmouth. All three are located in a traditional shipbuilding and military base regional economy at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.
“The flexibility of the Port Host Communities Revitalization Fund is integral to its effectiveness and allows for a wide variety of redevelopment activities,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Each project is being redeveloped for a market-driven purpose and will breathe new life into these once derelict structures.”
The three grants will rehabilitate a waterfront industrial property in Portsmouth, redevelop a testing site in Newport News for unmanned surface vehicles and unmanned underwater vehicles, and redevelop additional retail and office space in Newport News. The awards will help redevelop infrastructure and create long-term employment opportunities.
“Investing in our Port Host Communities is key to ensuring the continued economic health of our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “These three projects will transform port infrastructure and bring new opportunities, economic development, and revitalization to these communities.”
The General Assembly allocated $1.5 million in Port Host Communities Revitalization Fund grants through 2022. This money will assist with the removal, renovation, or modernization of port-related buildings and facilities in Virginia’s five port host communities: 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 under the Port Host Communities Revitalization Fund grant program. All projects will receive at least a 100 percent match in funding from public or private sources.
2022 Port Host Communities Revitalization Fund Grant Awards:
City of Portsmouth: Shipwright Bulkhead Replacement | $856,000
The city of Portsmouth will receive funding for Phase I of the Shipwright Project to complete bulkhead replacement at 3301 Shipwright street. Phase I involves replacing 430 linear feet of bulkheads on the 13.2 acre waterfront property. The replacement serves as the foundation of many other renovations planned for the property. The replacement will prevent further erosion, preserve the environment, prevent debris and silt runoff, and provide stability to the land near the shoreline. At completion of Phase I, the existing Fabrication Shop will be immediately available for use.
City of Norfolk: Willoughby Boat Ramp | $394,000
The city of Norfolk, in partnership with Old Dominion University (ODU), is renovating the nearly five-acre Willoughby Boat Ramp to create a testing site for Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). Several USV/UUV companies operate within the Hampton Roads area and have noted a need for testing sites in order to grow. The boat launch is currently used by several small commercial fishermen. Recreational boating will continue to be available and free at this location. ODU’s Open Seas Technology Innovation Hub will serve as the immediate user, leasing the facility from the city for commercial and academic testing of the USVs/UUVs, as well as helping to market it as a future test site for others.
City of Newport News: Jefferson Avenue Co-working Space, Phase II | $250,000
The city of Newport News is renovating a two-story vacant commercial building (2510 Jefferson Avenue) into ground-floor retail space and second-floor office space. The adjacent building was recently converted into co-working space. The opening of that building in the summer of 2021 has demonstrated a demand for office space in the neighborhood. This property is located on a major thoroughfare that supports port-related transit.
Photo courtesy of the Virginia Governor’s office.