NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Elizabeth River Project broke ground on a new environmental research center Wednesday afternoon in Norfolk.

The Pru & Louis Ryan Resilience Lab will focus on coastal resiliency and flooding issues in Norfolk, but the research done here can help other coastal cities across the country.

The $8 million facility will be located off Colley Avenue, on the Lafayette River.

The resiliency lab will teach visitors ways they can introduce environmentally friendly practices into their daily lives.

Keeping with the non-traditional style of the building, the groundbreaking itself wasn’t done with shovels, but with the release of three rehabilitated pelicans — the first of many the center will benefit.

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander said this is a huge step forward for addressing sea level rise in Norfolk.

“In Norfolk, we are not just adapting to our rising seas, we are rising above it,” Alexander said.

“We’ll be part of putting Norfolk on the global map for not just a bad problem but a big solution. People who are determined to be resilient and to help their ecosystems thrive,” said Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, executive director of the Elizabeth River Project.

Construction on the new center is expected to start in June and be finished in 2023.

The gift to support the Resilience Lab is the largest donation ever to the Elizabeth River Project.