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ERP Resilience Lab

NSU Partners with Elizabeth River Project to Establish Equity Model

The Elizabeth River Project recently celebrated the groundbreaking of an innovative living laboratory and learning park designed to respond to sea-level rise and urban flooding. 

The $8 million Pru and Louis Ryan Resilience Lab was intentionally built in a floodplain to demonstrate accessible, approachable methods of resilience and sustainability for homeowners, small businesses and developers. The lab will feature environmentally sustainable construction practices to changing research displays to a waterside park for the public to explore how to live and work in the urban flood plain in ways to protect the ecosystem as seas rise. It is hoped that this project will serve as a global model for urban communities everywhere.

ERP will work with several academic partners including Norfolk State University. The three-year partnership between the University and the Elizabeth River Project will establish an equity model for the Chesapeake Bay for environmental restoration.

“Together we are planning for the NSU-Elizabeth River Project Incubator for Environmental Justice,” said Dr. Michael O. Keeve, Dean of the NSU College of Science, Engineering and Technology. “Understanding of the historical context of the rivers, the communities that live near those waterways and the perspective of those living in those communities will be incorporated into an environmental justice mapping tool.”  

The overall objective, he said, will be to expand the capacity of community-wide partners engaged in restoring the Elizabeth River and to sustain the motivation of communities in vulnerable areas to take part in water quality improvements. The site of the resilience lab, located in Norfolk’s North Colley Avenue business corridor along Knitting Mill Creek, will be one of the key hubs for the community outreach. Additionally, Norfolk State art students will interpret in their artwork, to be displayed at the site, what biology students are seeing through their research. 

The groundbreaking ceremony culminated with the release of three rehabilitated brown pelicans, a species that was almost extinct, to symbolize the new hope for the Elizabeth River. 

“This,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander, “is one of the most promising projects to come about in my lifetime for a healthy Elizabeth River.”