HAMPTON — Mayor Donnie Tuck described his city as a place of constant innovation.
He delivered his 2023 State of the City the address Friday before hundreds of community leaders at the Hampton Roads Convention Center.
“Our city is 413 years old,” Tuck said. “And yet we continue to innovate.”
Tuck noted Hampton was one of 10 cities across the country to be named an All-America City by the National Civic League this year. City Manager Mary Bunting said the award recognizes communities that leverage civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues.
Hampton received the recognition in part for programs related to youth engagement — including the school division’s Academies of Hampton, which allows students to learn through the lens of a specific career or academic theme in a hands-on learning environment. Work by the city’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Opportunities also was a factor. The office’s staff strives to provide meaningful alternatives to violence, drugs, and gang participation while addressing unresolved trauma and supporting returning citizens.
The city also was recognized for community policing programs that introduce young residents to officers and public safety in positive ways, including through summer camps, school resource officers, and community events such as “Coffee with a Cop.” The National Civic League said community relationships between police and those they serve are “vital to maintaining public safety.” The city had previous wins in 1972, 2002, and 2014.
Tuck reminded the crowd that the city earlier this year received $4.6 million in federal funding that will be used to combat gun violence by creating neighborhood resource centers in areas affected. The centers will provide prevention and intervention services, including trauma-informed care, workforce development, access to health care, mentoring, conflict resolution and educational programs.
As an example of innovation, Tuck highlighted how the city’s public works department has used drones for several years to survey stormwater drains and ditches to determine when they need to be cleaned. He said the wastewater team has captured video of sanitary sewer pipes and analyzed them to determine when they need to be repaired or replaced. This year, they took that one step further, and Tuck said Hampton is one of a handful of localities in the nation using artificial intelligence to read and interpret those images.
“New technologies also allow the city to repair underground pipes without digging up the street,” Tuck said. “This saves us time, and it saves drivers a lot of frustration. Because Hampton is pioneering this technology, we are leading the way for other localities.”
He spoke of innovation at the NASA Langley Research Center, including the $43 million Flight Dynamic Research Facility, the first new wind tunnel at the center in 40 years. He said the 10-story building will replace two older tunnels and play a major role in experimental research for autonomous flight vehicles, unmanned aerial systems and X-planes.
He also highlighted new businesses coming to Hampton, including the the $111 million Phenix Commerce Center, which broke ground last month. He said when it opens next year, it is expected to employ 250 people and house a workforce training center.
Tuck said Hampton University is expected to expand its research base with new grants. He said one new research project could help pave the way to make nuclear fusion a new carbon-free energy source. He added that the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, with a partnership with two other groups, will use a first-of-its kind device to improve cancer treatment.
Other notable achievements include installation of a historical marker commemorating the Bay Shore Hotel’s listing in the Green Book, significant increases in Hampton tourism spending, efforts to improve resilience to flooding, expansion of the LGBT Life Center into the city, and City Council approval of a $100 million proposal by Axis Global to redevelop the former site of the Lincoln Park Housing Development.
Tuck said after visiting numerous locations throughout the country and abroad he is “reminded just how special Hampton truly is.”
Also at the event, Bunting and Hampton City Schools Superintendent Raymond Haynes highlighted numerous achievements within the division. Bunting shared that 100% of the city’s schools are accredited without conditions and the on-time graduation rate stands at 96.4%.
Haynes highlighted how the city schools are partnering with Next Generation Storytellers, a program through which students from the four high schools work alongside Hollywood actors, producers, directors and other cast and crew to write, act and produce high-quality short films. Haynes announced that all four films were selected to be screened during the Virginia Film Festival in late October.