With a packed room at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, gave his final State of the City speech to the citizens, business leaders, community leaders, and friends of the City of Norfolk on Friday March 18, 2016. The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce was honored to host this event for the 20th time with Mayor Fraim.
Mayor Fraim gave an update on new developments in Norfolk. ADP announced on Tuesday, March 15th that they will be opening an office in downtown Norfolk. The Main, a 22-story Hilton Hotel and the Exchange, a 105,000 square foot conference center, is set to open in March of 2017. The Waterside District is on track to open April 2017, already 90% leased with tenant announcements to be made within the next month. One already announced tenant is Starr Hill Brewery. Movement Mortgage announced they will be relocating within the region and add employment to the former J.C. Penney building in Military Circle. Norfolk Premium Outlet will break ground in May. With new development, come new jobs. All these developments will bring over 5,000 new job positions to the city of Norfolk.
Mayor Fraim recognized many businesses in Norfolk. The Port of Virginia handled nearly 20 million tons of cargo valued at $60 billion, making 2015 a record year for the Port and making it the fifth largest port in the nation.
Slover Library, which they Mayor called a destination for all people to want to visit and experience, won the prestigious 2015 Library Building Award selected by the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association.
Sentara Healthcare’s recent announcement on their $199 million expansion at Norfolk General Hospital is great news for the region’s health care. There will be three floors added to the Kaufman and River Pavilion Wings, 18 operating rooms will be expanded and modernized, and the emergency department will be expanded. Sentara Norfolk General has been ranked two years in a row by U.S. News and World Report as Virginia’s best hospital. Sentara Leigh Hospital will begin their final phase on their $120 million renovation.
Mayor Fraim stated Norfolk is the cultural capital of the Commonwealth led by the Chrysler Museum. The Virginia Symphony, Virginia Arts Festival, Virginia Opera, and the Virginia Stage Company are all nationally recognized. Harborfest, put on by Festevents, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. For more than 30 years, Festevents has produced award-winning waterfront events in downtown Norfolk and in Oceanview. These events attract millions of people to Norfolk.
Carnival Cruise Lines was welcomed with their return last year, bringing nearly 38,000 cruise ship passengers and 14,000 crewmembers to Downtown Norfolk. In October of this year, the Half Moone and Lamberts Point welcome ships on the same day, brining more than 44,000 passengers and 14,000 crewmembers. With all of those cruise passengers and crewmembers, this will create an enormous economic impact.
In 2015, the Norfolk Police Department started the Crisis Intervention Team, which works with the Community Services Board to train officers in how to respond more effectively to calls. In less than a year, 200 police officers graduated from the program. The Virginia CIT Coalition awarded the Norfolk Crisis Intervention Team the 2015 CIT Program of the Year Award.
On the topic of transportation, Mayor Fraim stated, “In the Global economy, transportation is destiny…for our economy to reach its full potential, our transportation network must improve.” Widening I-64 on the Peninsula is in construction; the I-564 Intermodal Connector is under construction and will improve traffic congestion in and out of the naval base and assist in the handling of increasing cargo loads at the port. Right now, Norfolk is the only city in the Commonwealth with a light rail system and plans are to extend the line the Naval Base and hopefully one day to Virginia Beach.
In 2015, Norfolk ended the fiscal year with an $8 million surplus, a real estate assessment increase, and the population grew to over 247,000 people with nearly one-third of those residents being millennials. The unemployment rate is at 5.2% with more than 203,000 jobs in the city and over 5,000 more to come.
Mayor Fraim ended the speech saying it has been a joy and an honor. The city of Norfolk has made real progress over the last couple decades and he is looking forward to watching the younger generation take Norfolk forward.
Thank you to our sponsors: TowneBank (Series Presenting); Bon Secours (Series Platinum); GEICO (Series Gold); Everest College, Farm Fresh, and Optima Health (Series Silver Sponsor); Norfolk Southern (Spirit in Motion Sponsor); MacArthur Center (Bronze Sponsor); Norfolk Waterside Marriott (Host Sponsor)