Bringing Revitalization and Infrastructure Improvements to Portsmouth


Located along the Elizabeth River, the City of Portsmouth in Hampton Roads is full of history. Individuals can see the history right before their eyes with beautiful 200-year-old trees, cobblestone driveways, and historic concrete curbs that line the streetscapes. Portsmouth is known for its history and culture, but with an old city, a need for infrastructure improvements inevitably happens over time.

In 2013, Portsmouth officials conducted an area-wide study for potential revitalization and growth of the city. They discovered that addressing the aging water and sewer infrastructure would play a significant role in the redevelopment vision. Draper Aden Associates provided the overall design and acted as program managers for the infrastructure improvements.

Yet, due to the numerous businesses and residents that call the City of Portsmouth home, and due to the historic significance of the area, there were a couple of challenges that the Draper Aden team had to face. We couldn’t just rip up historic cobblestone streets and 200-year-old trees to install the new sewer infrastructure. Instead, the team had to take a more strategic and creative tactic.

As a result, the overall approach to this project divided key areas into “Impact Zones” and phases to reduce the amount of construction in the area. Impact Zone 1 focused primarily on the downtown business district, a heavily developed land use area with mostly commercial properties and the City of Portsmouth government buildings. Draper Aden took a unique approach by dividing Impact Zone 1 into four phases to help eliminate chaos with construction. Each phase was a specific portion of the street and had a tight timeline to replace the water mains and sewage lines. At the end of the phase’s deadline, the team would then move onto the next section of the street. By taking this “phasing” approach, Draper Aden was able to help local businesses located along the construction area stay open for business. In the end, this approach helped facilitate the restoration of the historic brick sidewalks, curbs, and all other distinct features while replacing all water and sewer infrastructure.

Draper Aden is now currently working on Impact Zone 2, which encompasses a 10-square block area in Olde Towne Portsmouth. Draper Aden is replacing service pipes to the residential homes in the area. Yet, being that Old Towne Portsmouth is comprised of historic residential neighborhoods, there has been a completely different set of challenges than in Impact Zone 1. Replacing service pipes to the residential homes could not affect or alter the historic elements of the city in any way.

Therefore, Draper Aden used 3D survey scanning to locate all tree roots from face of house to face of house. This detailed survey information determined that curb-to-curb restoration was necessary to minimize the impact of the trees. This decision also provided the City with savings of 35-40% of the total Impact Zone 2 project cost.

As you can see, through the innovative and creative plans for this project, the Draper Aden team has been able to preserve the integrity and beauty of the existing historic streetscape during construction and for years to come! Learn more about some of our recent projects here.