In 2013, then-Mayor Paul Fraim publicly acknowledged Norfolk’s vulnerability to sea level rise and coastal flooding. While Fraim’s announcement had the potential to deter investment and economic development, Norfolk desired to turn the problem into an opportunity for research, exploration, and innovation resulting in exportable knowledge, expertise, and solutions for living with water.In partnership with a regional planning commission, Waggoner & Ball Architects, and the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Norfolk hosted a series of workshops called the “Dutch Dialogues” to combine Dutch approaches to integrated water management with American expertise to address water problems in Norfolk, Hampton, and the Region. Issues included flooding, water quality, sea level rise, and subsidence. Work Program Architects hosted a three-day workshop and design charrette focused on exploring ways to live with water. Discussions included topics of engineering, spatial planning, urban design, environmental restoration, community amenities, and economic development. WPA provided process management, arranged for coastline boat tours, GIS mapping services and custom flood map overlays, urban design, planning, and architectural services.
The work that resulted from “Dutch Dialogues: Life at Sea Level” was used to develop an application for the National Disaster Resilience Competition. In February of 2016, Norfolk was awarded a $120 million grant by the Rockefeller Foundation to address problems in the Ohio Creek watershed.