NORFOLK, Va — In order to preserve the historic character of its downtown, Norfolk City Council officials revealed plans to transform parts of the city’s dilapidated waterfront into an industrial wasteland.
Officials call the strategy, developed in coordination with both a Danish consulting firm and the EPA, “active neglect.” To implement the plan, the category “wasteland” will be added to the city’s zoning code, effectively making improvements to all downtown riverfront property illegal.
“This solidifies Norfolk as one of the most innovative cities in the world,” councilman Andrew Kemler said of the project. “We can’t wait to get started on destroying our beloved waterfront.”
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The initiative involves speeding up natural processes such as erosion as well as preserving contamination and pollution left over from a time when industrial and manufacturing firms called the shoreline home.
“It’s a unique redevelopment opportunity,” said Johan Rutte, a Dutch engineering consultant brought in to advise the city on flooding issues. “We want to turn the Elizabeth River back into a sprawling graveyard.”
“Sidewalks and bike paths, working streetlights, strong public schools, access to reliable public transportation — none of that seemed to work,” Kemler said of past attempts to improve the area’s decaying infrastructure.
“Instead, the city has looked to the past for inspiration from iconic polluted urban environments. With the help of state and federal grants, two studies have been commissioned to examine the pre-20th century Thames River in London and 1970s Manhattan.”
According to Rutte, Norfolk will also receive approximately $100,000 in technical assistance from the EPA to determine how much more harm can realistically be done. “We’re not even sure if people or animals would want to live here if it were to be cleaned up. If wildlife leaves the area, that’s a return on investment, as far as we’re concerned.”
“Shovels in the ground, trash in the river,” was the catchy slogan local activist Carla Sheene printed on T-shirts to show public support for the project. Sheene, along with many of her friends, have advocated for a public works program to engage ordinary citizens in ruining the shoreline together.
“After decades of empty promises, city leaders and their developer pals have lost their chance to turn the area cut off from downtown by Interstate 264 into a fancy new neighborhood with a brewery and two vegan coffee shops,” Sheene claimed in a recent interview.
The city hopes its up and coming wasteland with its shrinking marshes, dry-rotted docks, crumbling warehouses, and abandoned buildings will serve as a model for other cities attempting to build half-abandoned, industrial wastelands of their own.
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