RECAP: July District Council Infrastructure Grant Cohort Meeting
On Thursday, July 29th the Curtis Infrastructure Initiative held its fifth meeting of the grant-funded cohort of District Council projects.
The Elizabeth River Trail (the Trail) is about 10.5 miles (17 km) long and connects many of Norfolk, Virginia’s parks, neighborhoods, commercial centers, and its iconic waterfront. ULI was asked by the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation (ERTF) to convene a virtual Advisory Services Panel to provide strategic recommendations for the Foundation as it works to broaden and enhance its impact for city residents.
Date: July 26-29, 2021
Location: Norfolk, Virginia
Sponsor: Elizabeth River Trail Foundation
Subject Area: Trail Resilience
Panel Chair: Fernando Costa, Assistant City Manager, City of Fort Worth, Texas
The ULI panelists were asked to provide recommendations on the following:
After a briefing and virtual tour by the sponsor and interviews with more than 45 stakeholders, the panelists produced a set of recommendations. Three themes where identified that capture many of the key recommendations of the panel.
The Trail is more than a trail. The Trail is a component of the city’s transportation system, an asset for economic development, and as an amenity for neighborhood vitality and connectivity. Segments of the Trail can also provide flood control and mitigation infrastructure. Specifically, the panel noted that segments of the Trail and surrounding spaces are well located to intercept rising river levels and rainfall and recommends that these areas act as sponges, bridges, and new elevated shorelines. In addition, the Trail can be a venue for educating residents and visitors on the city’s adaptation and mitigation techniques for coastal resilience.
Success depends upon strong partnerships. The panel recommends that ERTF focus on establishing or further developing partnerships with the city, local businesses, anchor institutions, and other communities in the Hampton Roads region. The panel believes that targeted work to strengthen key partnerships and convey a clearer understanding of the benefits of partnering with ERTF will ultimately result in a more financially sustainable model for trail development and maintenance and a trail that is inviting and valuable to everyone. The panel recommends leveraging these partnerships to build support for a Business Improvement District (BID) along the Trail to provide a stable source of funding for operational and maintenance expenses. Specifically related to ERTF’s current partnership with the city, the panel recommends updating the existing Memorandum of Understanding to further outline and define roles and responsibilities of each entity while also reinforcing the role of the city staff champion.
The Trail can be a catalyst for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The Trail has the potential to reach a broader, more diverse user base by actively pursuing strategies to increase DEI. The panel recommends that ERTF actively engage with adjacent neighborhoods and communities of color and identify new physical connections from these neighborhoods to the Trail with input from residents. The panel also recommends that ERTF expand representation of communities of color within their board and on their committees, as well as form a DEI committee to focus on and champion these efforts.
Additional key recommendations upon which ERTF can act in the short-term include proceeding with the planned update to the Foundation’s strategic plan, preparing and adopting a trail ordinance, and formulating and adopting a long-range master plan for the Trail in partnership with the city.