Waterfront Developments Could Be Key To Protecting Boston’s Coast


(iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)

(iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)

Could Boston’s waterfront real estate projects be key to protecting the city’s coast?

Developments along the Mystic River, Fort Point Channel and Dorchester Bay have scored city and state approval by using designs that help them cope with rising sea levels and storm surges that are expected to become a more severe threat, the Boston Globe reported. Critics say they aren’t convinced the projects will be enough to protect the city.

“The water rises everywhere. We have to plan for it,” Bud Ris, a former New England Aquarium CEO and waterfront advocate, told the outlet. “The more essential question is not where to start, but: Who is going to pay for it, and who benefits?”

Some of the concern stems from the fact that a project-by-project approach would likely leave large chunks of Boston’s coastline unprotected between the developments. In addition, many are concerned that it would present an equity problem and lead to protection being prioritized for luxury housing and expensive office developments.

In 2018, researchers at UMass Boston found that building a flood barrier across Boston Harbor wouldn’t be worth the cost, saying it wouldn’t be complete until 2050 or be able to protect against high-tide flooding. In light of the findings, the researchers urged public officials to focus on more immediate and natural solutions.

In response, the Boston Planning & Development Authority raised the minimum required base elevation to almost 22 feet above the low-tide mark and secured $10 million to help fund a $20 million berm along the east side of Fort Point Channel.

The city is also working to secure waterfront parks like Moakley Park in South Boston, which is set to get a $250 million overhaul in the next 10 years. Next door, Accordia Partners is planning a six million-square-foot development that will also have a new stormwater management system.

“The private sector is going to not only be part of the solution, but driving the solution,” Accordia principal Dick Galvin said.

Deanna Moran at the Conservation Law Foundation said she would rather the city fund more of the broader efforts since new projects can stall.

“I get nervous about the idea that we’re seeing redevelopment as the number one source of funding for climate resilience,” Moran said.

[BG] — Victoria Pruitt

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