Norfolk joins network of resilient cities

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Norfolk was named to The Rockefeller Foundation’s
Resilient Cities Network. Photo courtesy Virginia Tourism

Norfolk has joined the ranks of international cities such as New York, Rome and Melbourne, Australia. Like them, Norfolk has been named to The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Network.

Norfolk was chosen from 400 applications around the world by a group of judges that included former President Bill Clinton and Olusegun Obasanjo, the president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. The New York-based foundation launched the program to address the increasing shocks and stresses that cities face in the 21st century.

“Norfolk survived the American Revolution, the Civil War, and a century of flooding,” says a write-up on the Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge website. “As a major military hub, it needs to ensure it remains resilient amidst rising sea levels.”

The three-year program offers support to cities in the Resilient Cities Network and shares best practices. The initiative also is designed to help participating cities foster new connections and partnerships.

The Rockefeller Foundation will provide seed money for Norfolk to hire a chief resilience officer, who will oversee the development of the city’s resilience plan. Mayor Paul D. Fraim says Norfolk hopes to hire someone for the position by May. Norfolk will take part in a resilience agenda-setting workshop that should begin in the next couple of months. 

“We expect to take full advantage of this designation and work as closely with the other cities that have been selected and The Rockefeller Foundation as we can in order to get the ultimate benefit from this,” says Fraim.

In its application, Norfolk said its five most pressing resilience-building priorities were coastal protection, utility redundancy, economic recovery, transportation network and health care.
“We’re probably most at risk for sea level rise,” Fraim says. “We also have a unique characteristic with something called subsidence. The city is slowly sinking, which is something other communities are not facing. We’re on the crater, we’re on the crust of the Chesapeake Bay, so we are slowly sinking at the same time the water is slowly rising and then we’re also impacted by the more frequent large storms that come up the coast.”

The 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge required applicants to submit their needs and plans to build resilience. Norfolk was one of the 33 inaugural cities named to the network.  The program will accept its next round of city applications in mid-2014.

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