$20M seawall project progressing in Portsmouth, yet far from over

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The city is investing more than $20 million to overhaul the seawall after an underwater inspection revealed structural problems two years ago.

The current construction between High Street and North Landing should have been done in May 2016, but Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas says a delay on getting steel for the project set crews back.

Construction crews started in November 2015 and the city hopes the project will wrap up and reopen in July. Then, a seven-month overhaul will begin of the walkway connecting High Street Landing to City Hall.

“I can’t wait until it’s fixed,” said George McLeod, who lives downtown and changed his running route due to construction. “At night, it’s very family oriented up here. It’s nice and quiet.”

Psimas says the former seawall served the city well and the $20 million price tag for a new seawall is money well spent.

“We got to get it done,” she said. “It’s got a lot of commercial river traffic that’s beating that water up against [the seawall], so it’s got to be built to a much stronger specification than another pretty little walk on a river.”

The prolonged construction has frustrated locals and visitors.

“If you walk along the waterfront, it’s almost historical because people see the places their ancestors might have come in,” said one tourist who skirted around a construction zone Wednesday.

Sunshine Torrey opened Fit Bar Fitness on High Street on May 1. She says her business stands to benefit from an increase in foot traffic after the seawall is completed.

“About 90 percent of our clientele is just people walking past,” said Torrey. “If more people walk, than more people are going to see what we have to offer.”

The city approved funding this month for Portside, a 5,000 square-foot waterfront pavilion with food and events, that will be constructed on a grassy patch near North Landing.

Psimas believes the success of the project goes hand-in-hand with the seawall’s completion.

“The idea is when Portside is built next year that it will be part of that walking, strolling pattern we have down here,” she said. “When it’s done, it will be fabulous.”

City engineer James Wright says the first two phases of the seawall construction are funded through a recently approved capital improvement plan.

According to Wright, there are two smaller sections of the seawall within the North Street and High Street Landing inlets that do not yet have a funding source.