Project Page – The Essex

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The Essex


Historic Preservation, Rehabilitation, Sustainability


EarthCraft – Platinum Certification

Norfolk Preservation Collective Award of Excellence for Commercial Historic Preservation

Viridiant Building Sustainability Conference Awards

Hampton Roads AIA Citation for Historic Preservation

HRACRE Award of Excellence for Historic Preservation

Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Award

The Essex Building, a cherished vintage resource constructed in 1905 by evidence of its original building permit will continue to stand the test of time. As architect Carl Elefante so eloquently put it, “The greenest building is one that’s already built.” By choosing to restore this icon, we took the immense step of saving a contributing historic structure which sat vacant for 10 years endangered of demolition. Resiliency efforts were limited to intentionally choose this specific structure which is out of the 100 year floodplain and resides on a historic high point of Downtown Norfolk. While the changes to the building over time were photographically well documented, it was clear that the best guiding “period of historic significance” for this transformation was the year it was built, as the building’s form, proportions, and overall appearance were best at its original time of construction. Its stately façade proudly fronts on the TIDE MacArthur light rail station lawn and the core of our Historic Downtown so deserving of this natural response. Today it is known as a vibrant cultural hub of business and community gatherings where folks MEET!

Moving into The Essex was a defining transformational point in time for VIA. It literally and figuratively is our new platform from which we launch our brand. As a BETA pilot program site for Siemens, the building is a live model for building automations and controls with dashboard read outs located in the public area of the first floor for everyone to see. The first floor of the building supports VIA’s day to day internal meeting and social space needs, and is marketed and programmed as an outreach space for community and cultural gatherings. We envision this as a tool to further expose our profession to the community at large, and to leverage the space as a revenue stream.

The history of the building lends to its own stories to tell. This building is registered to obtain LEED Certification and is the first historic structure in the state of Virginia to accomplish the Viridiant of Virginia Award of Excellence for Sustainability. In 2019 the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council presented The Essex with a Va. Energy Efficiency Leadership Award.

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Project Gallery

The Essex From The Corner Of Bank and Plume Streets c. 1911 (courtesy of the Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library )

The Essex From The Corner Of Bank and Plume Streets Before Renovation

The Essex From The Corner Of Bank and Plume Streets

2nd Floor Office c. 1910s (photographer unknown)

2nd Floor Office During Construction

2nd Floor Office

Rooftop Patio With MacArthur Square And Downtown Norfolk In The Background

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