Mayor Marty Walsh announced a broad plan to shore up several waterfront parcels from flooding, including in the North End and Downtown, as part his “Resilient Boston Harbor” vision. The City Hall strategy is a step forward in protecting the city from rising sea levels, especially during major storms and flooding events.
In the North End and Downtown Boston, plans include transforming the parking lot at Sargent’s Wharf into a combination of open space and “resilient small-scale development.” A general rendering from the presentation includes a small building (see below) along with a park at the end of Sargent’s Wharf.
A redesigned shoreline configuration at Christopher Columbus Park and Langone Park and Puopolo Playground reflect higher elevations to protect against flooding. Sections of the Harborwalk will be raised along with improving open space and connections to the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Lastly, plans call for Long Wharf to be reinforced and made into a ferry gateway for water transportation.
The Mayor’s plans were revealed this week at a meeting with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce where he encouraged businesses to invest in preventive infrastructure now to avoid the inevitable damage coming from rising sea levels.
“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.”
In East Boston and Charlestown, 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 redesigning Constitution Beach to combine flood protection with expanded access and recreation. Wood Island and Belle Isle will be enhanced to prevent the loss of the last remaining tidal salt marsh in Boston, while buffering the shoreline from increased waves and surges. Main Street will be elevated 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. In addition, Ryan Playground will be elevated and the Schrafft Center waterfront will be redeveloped with elevated parks and mixed-use buildings.
The strategies will require collaboration and funding between federal, state, private, philanthropic and nonprofit partners. “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.”
Major plans are also identified for South Boston, Fort Point and Dorchester. Notably, an $11 million project funded by the sale of Winthrop Square Garage will complete the Emerald Necklace from Franklin Park to Moakley Park along Columbia Road to increase access to the waterfront. The City is also applying for a $10 million FEMA mitigation grant to begin resilience work along the Fort Point Channel.
“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.”
Importantly, the announced plans do not include funding for most of the outlined projects. Walsh said that the City will commit 10 percent of all new capital funding, approximately $16 million, to resilience projects. However, he is counting on state and federal government partners, as well as the private sector and non-profit and philanthropic stakeholders to make the bulk of the necessary investments.
More information on the Mayor’s plan can be found at the Resilient Boston Harbor website.