On October 17, 2018, Boston, Massachusetts Mayor Martin J. Walsh introduced a comprehensive and transformative vision of urban resilience for the city’s future. It will invest in adapting Boston’s waterfront to protect local residents, homes, businesses, and infrastructure from the impacts of rising sea level and climate change.
“I applaud Mayor Walsh for his continued efforts to make Boston resilient for future generations,” said State Representative Adrian Madaro. “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our City and our planet. The plan announced today will not only protect Boston’s waterfront neighborhoods, but will also improve the quality of life for our residents.”
Announced in his annual speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor’s plan—called Resilient Boston Harbor—lays out strategies along Boston’s 47-mile shoreline that will increase access and open space along the waterfront, all while better protecting the city during a major flooding event.
“We’re not just planning for the next storm we’ll face, we’re planning for the storms the next generation will face,” said Mayor Walsh. “A resilient, climate-ready Boston Harbor presents an opportunity to protect Boston, connect Boston, and enhance Boston, now and for the future. As we enter a new era in our Harbor’s history, Boston can show the world that resilience is not only the ability to survive adversity, but to emerge even stronger than before. That’s the promise of a Resilient Boston.”
Resilient Boston Harbor builds off of Imagine Boston 2030 and uses the city’s Climate Ready Boston 2070 flood maps and coastal resilience neighborhood studies to focus on Boston’s most vulnerable flood pathways.
The strategies laid out in the plan include repurposing and renewing waterfront properties to create elevated landscapes, enhanced waterfront parks, flood resilient buildings, and revitalized and increased connections and access to the waterfront. In this way, it’s a great example of applying the increasingly-popular 3Re Strategy (repurpose, renew, reconnect) to advance resilience.
“Building a resilient city is a serious challenge in response to a sobering threat, but it also brings enormous opportunity to re-think our relationship to the Harbor and create a world-class waterfront,” said Kathy Abbott, President and CEO of Boston Harbor Now. “We commend Mayor Walsh for seizing this moment to design a waterfront that is more accessible, beautiful, and inclusive than ever before. The urgency of climate change requires all of us to step up and work together like never before.”
Below are elements of the plan focused on specific neighborhoods:
EAST BOSTON, CHARLESTOWN
Based on early recommendations from the City’s Climate Ready Charlestown and Climate Ready East Boston plans, a deployable floodwall system has been installed across the East Boston Greenway, and a section of Main Street in Charlestown is being elevated. Additional measures identified include:
- Redesign Constitution Beach to combine flood protection with expanded access and recreation.
Enhance Wood Island and Belle Isle to prevent the loss of the last remaining tidal salt marsh in Boston, while buffering the shoreline from increased waves and surges.
- Work with new development projects, including Suffolk Downs, to integrate resiliency measures, increased open space, and community connections.
- Elevate transportation corridors like Bennington Street and the East Boston Greenway to create both flood protection and pedestrian connections throughout the neighborhood.
- Elevate Main Street as part of the re-design of Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square, to block the primary flood pathway through Charlestown. $4.8 million in capital funding has already been committed to the overall project.
Elevate and renovate Ryan Playground.
Redevelop the Schrafft Center waterfront with elevated parks and mixed-use buildings to grow economic opportunity while restoring natural resources.
“Given the urgency needed to address climate change, it is exciting to see the City of Boston put forth such a bold vision for the future,” said Rebecca Herst, the Executive Director of the Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMass Boston,
“This is a real opportunity to keep Bostonians safe from flooding and invest in our communities. With strong leadership, driven by scientific research, policy analysis and deep community engagement, we can ensure that all Boston residents, not just those with means, are prepared for climate impacts,” she added.
NORTH END, DOWNTOWN
Flood risks threaten Boston’s financial center, historic waterfront, tourist destinations and residential neighborhoods. The City will launch Climate Ready Downtown to further study the impacts and necessary measures to protect these neighborhoods. Strategies already identified include:
- Redesign Christopher Columbus Park and Langone Park and Puopolo Playground to include elevation to protect against flooding while improving waterfront open space and connections to the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
- Transform the parking lot at Sargent’s Wharf into a combination of open space and resilient small-scale development.
- Elevate sections of the Harborwalk.
- Enhance Long Wharf as the gateway for water transportation.
SOUTH BOSTON, FORT POINT
Released today, Climate Ready South Boston identifies the major flood pathways to many of the City’s residential neighborhoods through Fort Point Channel and Moakley Park. In response, the following strategies have been identified:
- Create a resilient Moakley Park and a re-envisioned Fort Point Channel to protect homes and businesses in South Boston, the South End, Chinatown, and parts of Dorchester and Roxbury.
- Build a coalition of support from the private property owners surrounding Fort Point Channel to assist in creating a signature resilient park system.
- Complete the Emerald Necklace from Franklin Park to Moakley Park along Columbia Road to increase access to the waterfront. $11 million will be allocated from sale of the Winthrop Square Garage for this project.
- Secure federal support. The City is applying for a $10 million FEMA mitigation grant to begin resilience work along the Fort Point Channel.
- The Boston Water & Sewer Commission has begun installing essential infrastructure for reducing flood risk.
An elevated New Ellery Street along the Dorchester Avenue corridor in South Boston, as identified in the BPDA’s PLAN: Dorchester Avenue South Boston to provide additional flood protection for South Boston’s residential neighborhoods.
- Complete Martin’s Park, an inclusive waterfront playground that will be climate-ready.
In order to create a resilient, more accessible Dorchester shoreline with increased connectivity, the City will launch Climate Ready Dorchester. Strategies already identified, include:
- Re-design Morrissey Boulevard to stop current and future flooding, and open up the waterfront.
- Complete the connection of the Neponset River Trail in Mattapan to the Harborwalk from Tenean Beach to Victory Park.
- Work with UMass Boston to further open up the waterfront along Columbia Point for the residents of Dorchester.
- Work with residents on new and improved amenities for the neighborhood, including better public transit and improved roadway, pedestrian, and bike connections.
Resilient Boston Harbor builds on the investments the City of Boston has made under Mayor Walsh to increase the City’s climate resiliency, including:
- Released Climate Ready Boston, an internationally recognized plan that builds on Imagine Boston 2030.
- Became one of the first cities to set a target of carbon neutrality by 2050. This week, the City released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the next update to Boston’s Climate Action Plan that will create a roadmap for that goal.
- Expanded open space. Boston ranks first in the nation for resident access to parks.
- Making historic investments in green transportation, including protected bicycle lanes in Roxbury, the South End, and North End, and expanded bike share access in Mattapan, Roslindale, and Dorchester.
- Completing new resilient design standards for public infrastructure, providing ways for all construction on public rights-of-way to adopt flood protection measures.
- The BPDA updated the climate resiliency checklist, requiring new projects to show they are resilient to climate impacts, and is designing a flood resiliency zoning district that will strengthen requirements for new and retrofitted buildings.
- Hosting the International Climate Summit in June, where the Mayor led the creation of a new coalition of cities dedicated to buying renewable energy collectively.
- Today, Boston is the top-ranked city for energy policy by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, and rating agencies cite Boston’s climate work in support of the City’s triple-A bond ratings.
“We have an economic and moral imperative to act on climate change,” said Senator Edward J. Markey. “This requires leaders at all levels of government and our business sector to work collectively to address the challenges facing our communities. As the Co-Chair of the U.S. Senate’s Climate Change Task Force, I am committed to standing with local leaders, like Mayor Walsh, to be the strong federal partner our residents need as the world continues to warm and sea levels rise.”
The projects outlined in Resilient Boston Harbor will require a number of different funding sources. Mayor Walsh announced that the City of Boston will commit 10 percent of all new capital funding to resilience projects. He called on Boston’s state and federal government partners, as well as the private sector and non-profit and philanthropic stakeholders to join the City in committing to make these necessary investments a reality.
The strategy builds on the City of Boston’s Resilience Strategy. Boston’s resilience strategy is focused on ensuring every resident can reach their full potential regardless of their background, and removing the barriers of systemic racism that hinder Bostonians from having access to opportunities. The strategies will require collaboration and funding among federal, state, private, philanthropic and nonprofit partners.
“Resilient Boston Harbor will not only strengthen the City against the impacts of climate change, it will create a fantastic urban waterfront, opening up many new opportunities to improve public access to the Harbor,” said Bud Ris, Senior Advisor to the Boston Green Ribbon Commission. “Based on all of the analyses that have been done through Climate Ready Boston so far, this is exactly the kind of approach Boston should be taking. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the City to make Resilient Boston Harbor a reality.”
All images courtesy of Resilient Boston Harbor / SCAPE Landscape Architecture.