The River Stars Awards are presented each year by the Elizabeth River Project and recognize stewards of the Elizabeth River. This year a new recognition, the Eastern Branch Award, was presented to the Grandy Village Learning Center (the “Learning Center”). The award recognizes a community partner which has demonstrated the most progress to reduce pollution and to restore the wildlife habitat on the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River.
The Learning Center is a component of Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing’s (“NRHA”) Grandy Village community. In 2008, DCLG attorney Delphine Carnes represented NRHA in a full-scale renovation of Grandy Village, which included the construction of the Learning Center as well as the renovation of 253 rental apartment units and the construction of 22 new duplex units. The financing for this complex project included 4% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (“LIHTC”) equity, tax-exempt bonds, NRHA funds, Capital Fund Program Grant Funds and conventional debt.
The Learning Center partners with the Elizabeth River Project, which docks its “Learning Barge” at the center’s custom-made pier. This collaboration provides a wide variety of educational programs to Norfolk school children who visit the barge and surrounding wetlands to conduct hands-on experiments and learn about the plants and animals that thrive in our coastal region. In addition to school programs through the Learning Barge, the Learning Center works closely with the Coastal Resiliency Project, sponsored by both the City of Norfolk and the Elizabeth River Project, and hosts numerous workshops and meetings for City leaders and conservationists to study ways to improve shoreline resilience in the face of sea level rise.