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News & Updates

City of Boston, Mayor Walsh announce plans to protect Downtown, North End, and Dorchester from climate change

Oct 29, 2020

City of Boston outlines strategies for a coastline built for recreation and resilience through public, private, and community collaboration

Building on his Resilient Boston Harbor plan to enhance Boston's waterfront and protect vulnerable neighborhoods from sea level rise and coastal flooding due to climate change, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today released two reports, Coastal Resilience Solutions for Downtown Boston and North End and Coastal Resilience Solutions for Dorchester. The reports are rooted in Imagine Boston 2030 and advance the work of Climate Ready Boston, the City's initiative to develop solutions to prepare Boston for the impacts of climate change. The strategies presented in each report outline a roadmap for near- and long-term solutions to protect from coastal flooding, increase access and open space along the waterfront, and enhance the public-private collaboration necessary for stakeholders in each neighborhood required for successful transformation and protection.

"Now more than ever, we must protect the health and well-being of all residents and communities in Boston, and ensure our vulnerable neighborhoods are protected from the impacts of climate change," said Mayor Walsh. "These reports focus on creating an equitable, sustainable path forward, and outline transformative plans to protect our homes, neighborhoods, and businesses from sea-level rise and flooding. We will continue to protect, connect, and enhance the City and Bostonian's quality of life for years to come."

Coastal Resilience Solutions for Downtown Boston and North End build on public infrastructure investments currently underway, and present an opportunity for partnerships with private stakeholders to drive accessibility and resilient public realm enhancements. Langone Park and Puopolo Playground, located along Boston Harbor in the North End, is the first project within the Boston park system to integrate the standards set forth by the City of Boston's Climate Resilient Design Standards and Guidelines for Protection of Public Rights-of-Way. The $15.3 million project will be completed in late fall and expands recreational opportunities, raises the level of the athletic fields out of the flood zone, elevates the harborwalk by four feet, and makes the sea wall more structurally sound. Additional near- and long-term actions in these neighborhoods include:

  • In the coming months, the City of Boston and Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) will convene a Long Wharf Property Owner Stakeholder Group. Long Wharf is BPDA-owned property, and the collaboration will work closely with tenants to move forward with solutions to create a connected and resilient sub-district, and enhance Long Wharf as the gateway for water transportation.
  • The redesign of Christopher Columbus Park to include elevation to protect against flooding while improving waterfront open space and connections to the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

"With the support of Mayor Walsh and the Climate Resilience Boston team, Wharf District residential and business property owners, are already implementing short-term measures that reduce the vulnerability of our buildings, the Greenway and its fountains," said Susanne Lavoie, Wharf District Council. "Additionally, we have worked together on a public realm vision that would accommodate a future that included a climate resilient waterfront. Now with the completion of the climate resiliency study in the Wharf District, we are excited about moving forward with long-term waterfront protection solutions in our planning and development."

Coastal Resilience Solutions for Dorchester expands the vision for the future of the Dorchester shoreline, offering strategies to adapt to and reduce coastal flood risk, while also establishing a framework to connect the waterfront parks, beaches, and marshes in Dorchester, transforming them into one accessible, continuous waterfront. Hundreds of residents participated in the design processes through meetings, community events, open houses, focus groups, and online surveys. Residents, businesses, and organizations shared their desire for effective solutions to protect their neighborhoods from coastal flooding and enhance their communities. Near- and long-term solutions include:

  • The redesign of Morrissey Boulevard to stop current and future flooding, and create a more accessible waterfront.
  • Completing the connection of the Neponset River Trail in Mattapan to the Harborwalk from Tenean Beach to Victory Park.
  • Coordinating with the University of Massachusetts Boston to further open up the waterfront along Columbia Point for the residents of Dorchester.
  • Working with residents on new and improved amenities for the neighborhood, including better public transit and improved roadways, pedestrian, and bike connections.

"With Mayor Walsh's leadership in committing ten percent of all new capital funding to move forward resiliency efforts, we are able to implement an interconnected and comprehensive approach to protecting our most vulnerable neighborhoods," said Chris Cook, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space. "In Boston we are already seeing the effects of climate change and it's critical to have leadership, both in government and in the community, who understand these efforts cannot wait."

"Adapting to rising seas is a huge challenge, but it's also a huge opportunity to re-envision how we can make the most of our beautiful harbor and the Neponset River," said Ian Cooke, Executive Director of the Neponset River Watershed Association. "Climate Ready Dorchester highlights how investments in resilience will help our neighborhoods not just survive but thrive in decades to come."

The long-term success of these strategies and the Resilient Boston Harbor vision will depend upon coordination with adjacent Boston neighborhoods, surrounding municipalities, and state-level agencies, as well as with recent and ongoing resilience efforts. This fall, the BPDA was awarded a $300,000 grant from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, which will help support flood protection and mitigation measures around Carlton Wharf and Lewis Mall in East Boston, identified as priority waterfront locations in the 2017 East Boston Coastal Resilience Solutions report. The design options will be developed through a process that engages both affected property owners and community residents. Last month, the City received a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Action Grant that will fund the upcoming strategic heat resilience planning study, an essential next step in preparing for the projected increases in extreme heat events over the coming decades.

"State and local partnerships are essential to our ability to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and the Baker-Polito Administration is committed to supporting cities and towns through resources like our Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. "Building on Massachusetts' and Boston's leadership on climate change, we are pleased to work with the City of Boston to improve climate resilience in its neighborhoods while protecting critical natural resources."

Creating and maintaining a Resilient Boston Harbor requires private sector and non-profit and philanthropic stakeholders to join the City in committing to make these necessary plans and investments a reality. One such collaboration is the recently announced Stone Living Lab, a partnership of the UMass Boston School of the Environment, Boston Harbor Now, the National Parks of Boston, the Stone Foundation, and the City of Boston. The Lab is an innovative ecosystem that aims to become a global hub for testing and scaling up nature-based solutions in the high-energy environment of the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. As a living lab, the partnership will engage the larger community - including students, civic organizations, and advocates- to work alongside scientists to address challenges related to permitting, financing and climate justice while co-developing the solutions urgently needed.

"Climate Ready Boston creates a blueprint for equitably protecting our neighborhoods while fostering a more vibrant and resilient waterfront for our city," said Kathy Abbott, President and CEO of Boston Harbor Now. "The City of Boston's partnership with the Stone Living Lab will go far in accelerating our progress toward realizing this vision."

The 2016 Climate Ready Boston report assessed Boston's climate projections and vulnerabilities to climate change, and identified city-wide strategies for reducing vulnerability to sea-level rise, extreme heat, and intense precipitation. The Climate Ready Boston program that followed the report is led by the City of Boston's Environment Department and the Boston Planning and Development Agency, in collaboration with many City and community partners and the residents of Boston. The Coastal Resilience Solutions reports referenced are part of eight vulnerable areas identified in the 2016 report, and follow studies for East Boston, Charlestown, South Boston, and the Moakley Park Vision Plan to incorporate climate resiliency design to address the threat of coastal flooding and storm surge. Resilient solutions identified through Climate Ready Boston are part of and strengthen the strategies outlined in Resilient Boston Harbor to increase access and open space throughout Boston's 47-mile shoreline while better protecting the City. For all near- and long-term actions outlined in the reports to protect these neighborhoods from flooding, read the Coastal Resilience Solutions for Downtown and North End report here and the Coastal Resilience Solutions for Dorchester report here.

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