NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Elizabeth River Project marked the latest progress in the building of its Ryan Resilience Laboratory Friday with a “topping out” ceremony. The complex will serve as a research, education and outreach center dedicated to the environment.

Construction crews from Hourigan, general contractor on the 6,200-square-foot lab, raised a truss to the top of the structure on Colley Avenue at 47th Street.

Mayor Kenny Alexander was among dozens of people who got out a Sharpie and signed the truss, wishing the project well.

“It will carry with it our highest hopes for the river and the region,” said Marjorie Jackson, Elizabeth River Project executive director.

She said the new $8 million center will raise the profile of her organization.

“This is the number one biggest thing we’ve ever done to increase our visibility in the community, and welcoming the community to be part of restoring our home river,” Jackson said.

The Ryan Resilience Lab, named for lead donors Louis and Pru Ryan, will integrate into the environment – but also teach others about the health of the Elizabeth River and resilience to sea level rise.

It’s that outreach and interactive component that motivates young people like Evelyn Page, a senior at Granby High School.

“During algae blooms, I’ve seen dead fish and crabs line its shores,” Page said. “This opened my eyes to the importance of protecting the Elizabeth River. It’s a lifeblood of our community.”

Alexander says the lab will bring together key stakeholders in the region. “Engagement, outreach and more importantly the collaboration with the universities and the city and with our business community.”

Hourigan Construction said the innovative project has been on schedule throughout.

“It’s gonna be an energy-efficient building,” said Bart Dexter, vice president of Hourigan’s Hampton Roads office. “From insulation, to sealing the building, to making it efficient with the windows and green roof, it’s just a really neat complex that we’re building so it’s environmentally sound.”

Jackson said the lab will re-use the water in the toilet system, and the adjacent shoreline will be “redone with natural wetlands and oyster reefs that welcome in the river in a healthy way while holding back erosion.”

With the final truss now in place, Dexter said roofing will follow and the completion date should be by the middle of this summer.