Waterfront Planning

Department Mission

Waterfront planning serves to connect the City of Boston’s workers, residents and visitors to the waterfront while supporting maritime activity and the working port.  The City’s waterfront provides a unique nexus of historic, civic, economic and ecological resources and accommodates a variety of residential, commercial, and recreational uses.  Waterfront planning endeavors to balance these interests and uses to promote an active, environmentally sound, and accessible Harbor that sustains vibrant waterfront neighborhoods and water dependent businesses.

Role in the Agency

The planning of Boston’s waterfront is guided by master plans which blend a neighborhood’s vision and development priorities with the state’s Public Waterfront Act (MGL Chapter 91). The state’s Public Waterfront Act prioritizes public access and water dependent uses within and along the Commonwealth’s tidelands. 

Waterfront Planning facilitates the harmonization of Chapter 91 regulatory standards with local objectives and urban design guidelines through the development of neighborhood-specific Municipal Harbor Plans (MHPs).  MHPs provide direction to state permitting agencies for future waterfront development. The plans support city-wide priorities for programming and activating the waterfront through the creation of new civic and open space amenities, the advancement of continuous access along the waterfront through HARBORWALK, and the provision of water transportation infrastructure.  Much of the planning and urban design parameters outlined in MHPs are codified into zoning, such as the city’s Harborpark District Zoning (Articles 42A, 42B, 42C, 42D, 42E, and 42F) which governs development along many of Boston’s waterfront communities. 

Waterfront planning staff is also involved with grant programs and initiatives to restore waterfront ecological resources, establish new public open space, and promote water dependent businesses and water transportation.

For more information, please contact Rich McGuinness, Deputy Director for Waterfront Planning, by email or by telephone at 617.918.4323.

  • Boston Planning & Development Agency
  • One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201
  • Tel: 617.722.4300  Fax: 617.248.1937
  • © 2017 Boston Planning & Development Agency