Gov. Ralph Northam announced $1.5 million in grant funds Wednesday for port-related projects in three Hampton Roads cities.
The money, allocated by the General Assembly, will be used to replace bulkheads in Portsmouth, renovate the Willoughby Boat Ramp in Norfolk and create retail and office space in Newport News.
“These three projects will transform port infrastructure and bring new opportunities, economic development, and revitalization to these communities,” Northam said in a news release.
In addition to the money from the grant, all of the projects will receive at least a 100% match from public or private sources.
Portsmouth received $856,000 for the first phase of its project to replace 430 feet of bulkheads at 3301 Shipwright Street, along the city’s waterfront. The replacement project will prevent further erosion, preserve the environment and prevent debris and silt runoff, according to the release. It will also serve as a foundation for future renovations.
In Norfolk, $394,000 will be put toward creating a testing site for surface and underwater drones at the nearly five-acre Willoughby Boat Ramp. The ramp is currently used by several small commercial fishermen.
The city sees the testing site as a possible catalyst for economic development after several companies in the region have said they need testing sites to grow their business. A design for the project presented in August includes adding a floating dock to launch unmanned vehicles about the size of a jet ski, according to The Virginian-Pilot archives.
For now, Old Dominion University’s Open Seas Technology Innovation Hub will lease the testing site from the city and use it for commercial and academic testing of the drones, according to the release. In the future, the ramp could be marketed as a space for others to test their unmanned vehicles.
Recreational boating will still be available for free at the ramp.
Newport News received $250,000 from the grant, which will be used to renovate a vacant two-story commercial building at 2510 Jefferson Avenue. The first floor of the space will be used for retail with the second floor serving as office space.
In the summer, the Newport News Economic Development Authority opened The Offices @ Two Five & J — a coworking space for city residents and for-profit businesses — in an adjacent building.
The space features private offices, shared offices and dedicated desks for a monthly membership and “hot desks” which are available for a daily rate. Shortly after opening, the coworking space filled all of its private offices. Early clientele included a photographer and talent agent, a marketing firm and a financial services firm.
The General Assembly created the Port Host Communities Revitalization Fund to remove or redevelop vacant, underutilized or deteriorated port-related properties in Front Royal, Richmond, Newport News, Portsmouth and Norfolk.
Jessica Nolte, 757-912-1675, firstname.lastname@example.org