A NOAA ship leaves the Marine Operations Center in Norfolk in 2017. (Image: Courtesy of NOAA)

A NOAA ship leaves the Marine Operations Center in Norfolk in 2017. (Image: Courtesy of NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is moving its East Coast operations hub out of Norfolk.

The agency is finalizing plans to relocate the Atlantic Marine Operations Center from Freemason to Naval Station Newport, according to the Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed.

The center coordinates NOAA’s ships in the Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes and is a homeport for some of its flagship research vessels, Reed’s office said in a news release. 

The new construction in Rhode Island will include a pier, bulkhead and shoreside facilities and is estimated to bring about 200 jobs to the area, according to the statement.

NOAA spokesperson Keeley Belva told WHRO media partner Channel 3 that the decision is based on several studies and an independent business analysis.

"The consolidation will result in more efficient ship operations and long-term cost savings through sharing common capabilities," Belva told WTKR. "This consolidation also aligns with NOAA’s regional facilities plans."

She said the move won’t reduce NOAA ship mission operations in Norfolk or the Chesapeake Bay.

About 60 employees work out of the Norfolk office, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

NOAA, then the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, opened the Norfolk office in 1933 to oversee the oceanographic activities of two ships, according to a city historical marker.

The marine center started in earnest a few decades later, “supporting more than 20 ships in their mission to gather important information about our oceans.”

The current building on York Street, originally built in 1919, was once described as “the most ornate building ever constructed in Norfolk.”

The property currently in federal hands is about 2.5 acres and was most recently valued at nearly $8 million, according to city property records. It is in a high-risk floodplain.