norfolk, virginia

Biophilic Cities Partner City Since 2019

Situated at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, with nearly 144 miles of waterfront, Norfolk is the commercial, cultural, and educational hub of Coastal Virginia. Throughout the city’s 400-year history, Norfolk has survived wars, disease, hurricanes, and is now dedicated to becoming the “coastal community of the future.” Due to the effects of sea level rise from climate change, there has been a renewed focus on resilience in Norfolk; by joining the Biophilic Cities Network, the city is emphasizing the important and innate connection between cities and nature. 

Since 2010, the city has created and restored nearly 400,000 square feet of shoreline and wetlands. After 80 acres of oyster reefs were revitalized in the Lafayette River, it became the first river in Virginia to meet oyster habitat restoration goals, which has allowed for the return of blue crabs, dolphins, sea horses, and black sea bass to the area. Community partners, like the Elizabeth River Project, teach environmental stewardship and local ecology to children from across the region onboard the Learning Barge; over 70,000 people have visited since it launched in 2009. The Elizabeth River Trail stretches for 10.5 miles along Norfolk’s waterfront, meandering through historic neighborhoods and nature preserves, providing more recreational opportunities for residents and visitors to traverse Norfolk. The city hosts events like tree plantings and “Clean the Bay Day,” which highlight the importance of being good stewards to the land and sea. From the regulatory side, the new Norfolk Zoning Ordinance requires that all new developments in the city allot between 10% and 20% for open space on the site, as well as new native landscaping and natural buffer requirements. Additionally, the Resilience Quotient requirement is helping to reduce flood risk, promoting energy resilience, and encouraging safe and responsible development practices, which will help to achieve goals set forth in plaNorfolk 2030, Vision2100, the Green Infrastructure Plan, and the Norfolk Resilience Strategy.

City Contact: Hank Morrison, City Planner

local spotlights

Ohio Creek Watershed Project – Transformational coastal improvement project to reduce flooding, improve public spaces, and protect historic neighborhoods.

Green Infrastructure Plan – Plan providing strategies to conserve and restore green infrastructure in Norfolk.

Elizabeth River Project – Non-profit leading community efforts to restore the environmental health of the Elizabeth River.

Clean the Bay Day – Annual event put on by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to clean litter and debris from Virginia Beaches. 161,700 volunteers have removed 7.1 million pounds of debris from 8,000 miles of shoreline since 1989.

Elizabeth River Trail – 10.5-mile urban biking and pedestrian trail.

biophilic codes

Resilience Quotient (Norfolk Zoning Ordinance Sec. 5.12)

The Resilience Quotient is a Zoning requirement for all new developments in the City to increase community capacity to recover from environmental shocks and stresses.

Open Space Set Asides (Norfolk Zoning Ordinance Sec. 5.5)

Ensures all new development contributes to the provision of common open space in ways that protect natural areas.