Plans for waterfront nearly ready


More kayak slips and access walkways on Machelhe Island (left) and establishing a “harbor beacon” in the water next to the Camden Causeway bridge are two specific projects recommended in a new masterplan for Elizabeth City's waterfront.


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, April 13, 2018

Drafts of Elizabeth City's waterfront and Charles Creek master plans are nearly done, and their recommendations include more waterfront recreation, restoring the Elizabeth City Shipyard, and new berms to prevent flooding.

The city and its consultant, Moffatt and Nichol, started the master plans last fall, and City Council is asking for public feedback on them. Council voted Monday to hold public hearings April 23 to collect citizen comment on the plans, after which it might adopt the plans or seek revisions. The plans can be downloaded via The Daily Advance’s website.

Once adopted, the plans will help guide the city’s future investments in transforming the waterfront and growing businesses, residences and recreational attractions.

Moffatt and Nichol staffers explained their framework for the plans during a public forum in January. They divided the city's waterfront into four overlapping zones: the University, referring to Mid-Atlantic Christian University and surrounding properties; the Causeway, referring to the Camden Causeway and Machelhe Island; the Harborfront, which includes downtown shops and parks; and the Preserve, which refers to the flood-vulnerable area around Charles Creek.

They further identified five “core tenets” for the waterfront: a welcoming harbor, increased accessibility, targeted renewal of key properties, maintenance of a “verdant, resilient shore,” and celebration of community heritage. The tenets are intended to ensure the waterfront remains enjoyable and affordable for all.

In new details, the waterfront plan also lays out specific projects the city should pursue for each part of the waterfront. One of the costliest will be acquiring and rehabilitating the Elizabeth City Shipyard property. The city is seeking grants to purchase the costly but environmentally compromised site.

“(The shipyard) is an essential redevelopment parcel, with renewal and activation of the site holding the greatest promise for transformation of the Harborfront,” the plan states.

The plan also proposes seeking specific state grants, plus city dollars and private investment, to acquire and redevelop the shipyard in four separate projects, including new boat slips, docks and “other in-water enhancements.”

The plan also notes that developing the shipyard into a marina, allowing a mix of commercial, residential and recreational uses, will be the costliest and lengthiest way to develop it.

The waterfront plan also calls for various other projects, some of which include:

* A rowing club boathouse at MACU, offering a possible attraction for students of the private university as well as at Elizabeth City State University and College of The Albemarle.

* A waterfront walkway linking the Jennette Brothers property to Veterans Park; the project reflects an overall goal of uninterrupted pedestrian routes at the waterfront.

* More kayak slips and access walkways on Machelhe Island.

* Establishing a “harbor beacon” in the water next to the Causeway bridge, providing a landmark while celebrating local art/identity.

* A waterfront walkway linking Moth Boat Park to Mariners' Wharf Park.

* Improved outdoor event space at Mariners’ Wharf Park, as well as updated boat slips there.

* Redeveloping properties at the junction of Ehringhaus and Water streets.

* Streetscape improvements on Riverside Avenue and Water Street.

* Continued improvements to U.S. Coast Guard Park, including kayak/canoe launches; city officials are planning to offer kayak rentals at the park, possibly by late this summer or early fall, Parks and Recreation Director Dexter Harris said Wednesday.

* Construction of a fishing pier at Charles Creek.

As for which projects could be implemented when, City Manager Rich Olson said he was still reviewing the plan. The consultants have recommended the city promptly pursue smaller, easier projects to build momentum for the plan's larger projects.

The Charles Creek plan, a separate document coordinated with the waterfront plan, also examines options to prevent flooding along the southern waterfront, including berm installation and elevation or relocation of flood-prone properties.