“For several years, the Elizabeth River Project has always imagined a space where many can come to understand climate change and its impacts on Hampton Roads.

“It was just a dream, a thought of what can we do to kind of put a model together,” said Ken Kimball, the president of the Elizabeth River Project Board of Directors.

That idea soon became known as the Louis and Pru Ryan Resilience Lab.

The $8 million living lab is designed to teach people in Hampton Roads how to adapt to the changing climate and rising sea levels.

“And are we doing it in ways that are resilient for the ecosystem and for communities,” Elizabeth River Project Executive Director Marjorie Jackson said.

Friday morning marked a milestone in the construction of the Ryan Resilience Lab in Norfolk.

“The mountains that we’re going to be climbing are not just the restoration of the river…but also dealing with resilience,” Louis Ryan, a representative of the Elizabeth River Project, said.

Crews placed the final beam on top of the building. Many signed it with messages for future river stewards, hoping they will continue to preserve the Elizabeth River.

Granby High School student Evelyn Page was one of the signatures.

“It’s crucial to recognize how our actions can be detrimental to the river and how we can fix it. Collective action and stewardship are powerful to preserve our future for future generations,” she said.

Jackson said the lab has a life span of roughly 50 to 100 years before the sea level gets close to the building. That’s when she says the organization will take the facility down.

“And let the wetlands keep going,” she said. “So that the site is going back to the river and the wetlands.”

The Ryan Resilience Lab is expected to open this fall.”