Unity Place Mixed-Income Apartments Break Ground in Norfolk

As part of the St. Paul’s Redevelopment, this new community will revitalize formerly flood prone public housing.

September 27, 2023

The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA), City of Norfolk, and members of the community gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of Unity Place Apartments this month—the second phase of Kindred, the name selected for the former Tidewater Gardens community. As part of the city’s St. Paul’s Transformation Project, Unity Place is one of the mixed-income apartment communities being constructed to revitalize a public housing community that experienced frequent flooding. VHB supported the NRHA with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, demolition plans, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirements for the full housing community.

The homepage for the Tidewater Gardens CNI Environmental Review. St. John’s A.M.E. Church in the St. Paul’s Transformation area. Existing conditions at St. Paul’s Transformation Area adjacent to the Unity Place construction site.

Tidewater Gardens first opened in 1953 as a public housing community owned and operated by NRHA. The redevelopment of this community, now called Kindred, will include three new mixed-use apartment buildings with 714 modern residential homes equally split into subsidized units, affordable units, and market rate units. Unity Place will provide 140 of the units, a fitness center, retail on the first level, and a community plaza. The building will connect to the surrounding St. Paul’s transit-oriented development through an improved pedestrian-friendly street grid with wide sidewalks, outdoor gathering spaces, mature live oak trees that were carefully preserved, and nearby public transit.

To identify potential environmental impacts, VHB supported the NRHA with the development of an Environmental Assessment (EA) to satisfy both HUD and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) agency regulations. VHB’s interdisciplinary approach to the EA streamlined the environmental review process, enabling more time for the design team to focus on project implementation. The EA also served as a resource for agencies and the public to understand the proposed project and provide comments. VHB partnered with the NRHA to help conduct community involvement meetings, engaging with the community during the demolition phases, answering questions, and providing support to residents. NHRA also selected VHB to develop the phased demolition plans and to provide bidding and construction support.

“The Tidewater Gardens community was experiencing regular flooding, mostly from common storm events, or when storm events would coincide with high tides and tidal flooding,” said Kim Blossom, ENV SP, Environmental Scientist at VHB. “In addition to providing the former residents with modern housing and upgraded amenities, this project elevates resiliency by protecting the residents and their homes, and lessening disruption to their routines due to flooding.”

This project was made possible by a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). One of the goals of the CNI grant is to transform the community from one with the largest concentrations of poverty in the region to a mixed-income, sustainable community and to deconcentrate poverty by creating a community that is connected physically, socially, and psychologically to the greater downtown City of Norfolk. The City also received a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant in 2020. The $14.4M was awarded to make roadway improvements that would connect the St. Paul’s neighborhood to downtown Norfolk that historically segregated one part of the city from another.

Construction of Unity Place is anticipated to be complete in 2025.

To learn more about VHB’s role on this project, connect with Kim through email or LinkedIn.