4 Lessons for Inspiring a Transformative, Welcoming, and Resilient Waterfront
Designing transformative parks starts with imagination: how do we radically re-envision our public spaces and design waterfront parks for the future?
2020 has brought into stark relief the need for accessible and welcoming outdoor spaces, and along the waterfront, these spaces must also serve the purpose of protecting communities from sea level rise.
Four planning and design leaders from cities around the country dove into these topics to kick off Boston Harbor Now’s Boston Harbor for All Summit in a panel discussion moderated by Nick Iselin, General Manager of Boston Development at Lendlease.
Here are four lessons from the panelists:
- Remember that parks = public health. Gina Ford, co-founder and principal of Agency Landscape + Planning, emphasized the critical role of public parks in promoting healthy lifestyles, using the example of the Chicago Riverwalk. Ford led the effort to transform the previously canyon-like and unwelcoming river’s edge to a multi-use, contiguous pathway supporting recreation and social interaction as well as climate resilience.
- Flip the typical sequence of development: the park comes first. Jamie Maslyn Larson, Director of Landscape Architecture at Bjarke Ingels Group, detailed the planning process around Governors Island, a 172-acre space located 800 yards from Lower Manhattan that was redesigned through a Master Plan to become both a destination and a landmark. Unlike many typical development processes that begin with hardscape design, with parks coming as an afterthought, on Governors Island the parks and public spaces were the very first phase of a larger strategy. Designing the open spaces first ensured they have remained the centerpiece of planning moving forward.
- Involve the community early and meaningfully. Vaughn Perry, Equitable Development Manager at 11th Street Bridge Park, offered lessons from the 11th Street Bridge Park Project connecting two communities on both sides of the Anacostia River in Washington DC. The non-profit Building Bridges Across the River sought community input from the project’s infancy, including creating an Equitable Development Plan to ensure that benefits resulting from the project were inclusive and wouldn’t result in displacement. Working with local communities early and meaningfully results in better projects that contribute more deeply over the long term.
- Invest in a park beyond the life of the “project.” Liza Meyer, Chief Landscape Architect at the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, talked through plans for Moakley Park, Boston’s largest waterfront park and a critical link in Boston’s resiliency planning. As Boston develops a vision for the park in partnership with local civic groups and neighborhoods, it’s important the resulting design are continuously nurtured over time. The most successful parks are thoughtfully planned, then continually invested in so they feel like active spaces evolving with the community.