We now know that Boston will experience an existential threat from sea level rise within the century, or more catastrophically, in the nearer term. The question for future generations will be, “What did the 2020 Bostonians do about it?” The Blue Necklace is a project that attempts to answer that question, pulling together a multi-disciplinary team to develop a response. Boston’s current strategy of creating flood-able infrastructure, locally resilient buildings, and strengthening the existing water edge meets today’s challenges from storm surge and king tides. The Blue Necklace addresses the anticipated permanent and significant sea level rise, extending new land within the harbor to protect the city, while creating opportunities for open space and development.
With this project, we are researching a comprehensive plan to ensure the protection of East Boston, Charlestown, the North End, Downtown and the Seaport. The guiding principles are to prevent the inundation of existing neighborhoods, retain current waterfront property, create new opportunities for recreational engagement with the water, maintain critical sea access for the Coast Guard and shipping ports, and fund the project in a socially equitable way through a progressive tax on the development of the new made land.
The project creates a series of linked islands, creating city-side waterways, interspersed with locks that allow access to a higher sea. By nature of this project, the coastline will be increased four-fold. The shores facing the sea would have native grasses and landscapes softening the impact of waves and surges. The inner waterfronts would be more urban, providing direct access to the water for recreation and enjoyment. In total, the proposal creates 150 acres of new land, 30 million square feet of built development and 30 thousand linear feet of sea wall. The hope is to provide opportunities for affordable housing, cultural amenities, open space and business use.
Mark Reed and Stephanie Goldberg are founding principals of Boston-based architecture firm, LAB LSA and winners of the Boston: Living with Water international design competition. They are indebted to the design thinking and efforts of Nick Perez, Carlton Smith, Cody Uliasz and Len Osborne, all members of Blue Necklace project.