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A community-driven vision for a resilient, inclusive waterfront destination

Fort Point 100 Acres Open Space Concept Plan and Ground Floor Activation Guidelines

Client
Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA)
Location
Boston, MA
Size
90 acres
Services
Landscape Architecture
Planning and Urban Design
Additional Services
Civil Engineering
Community Engagement
Status
Concept plan completed 2021

The Fort Point 100 Acres Open Space Concept Plan establishes an implementation roadmap and detailed design for 9 acres of new resilient parks at the heart of the Fort Point neighborhood, with particular focuses on climate change adaptation, equity, and inclusive access.

Fort Point is located in a historically significant, and rapidly developing, part of Boston’s waterfront. The concept plan replaces large swaths of surface parking with a new park network that incorporates a landscape berm, water play, event lawn, picnic groves, sports courts, and other recreational amenities desired by the community. By prioritizing inclusive design and programming, the park network stakes an important claim that the waterfront belongs to all Bostonians.

Resilient Design

Coastal flooding is a significant and increasing threat to the neighborhood. Coastal Resilience Solutions for South Boston identifies this location as the “most critical near-term flood pathway” in the neighborhood with 9 inches of sea level rise, which is expected by the 2030s. The Open Space Concept Plan seamlessly integrates an elevated waterfront berm into the park network, leveraging the higher elevation for enhanced views and then stepping down to sculpt a waterfront amphitheater.

In addition to protection from coastal flooding, the plan strengthens Fort Point’s resilience to heat, addresses increased stormwater flooding, and expands biodiversity. The plan provides relief from the urban heat island effect with an enhanced urban tree canopy, shade structures, and a water feature that provides ambient cooling. The incorporation of green stormwater infrastructure and subsurface storage captures stormwater at both the park and neighborhood scales.

The project area is 96.8% impervious today; the proposed concept design would transform the existing paved landscape into a green wilderness experience in the heart of the urban neighborhood. The new parks will be a living model where park visitors can learn about and experience firsthand how cities are adapting to our changing climate.

Expanding Participation from Underrepresented Voices

Throughout the process, the team was conscious of the demographics of who was participating and then adjusted the strategy to expand participation by underrepresented voices. For example, the project team noticed that demographics reported from participants in the open house and online survey was more than 75% white and roughly 70% from the neighborhood residents. The team realized that this feedback was limited in showing the team what could expand park use by residents of other neighborhoods.

To expand participation by under-represented demographics, we collaborated with The American City Coalition (TACC) to design a virtual engagement session for Roxbury families. TACC surveyed their contacts to gather feedback about how to structure the event to make it most accessible during COVID (ex. format, time of day, platform, languages). Based on this feedback, we designed an interactive virtual storytelling time, including translation in Spanish and Somali.

The session included children’s-book-style graphics with a “choose your own adventure” activity to co-create Fort Point’s new parks. The participating children designed a park with more homes for fish (ie. floating wetlands), a large fountain to play in, and wide open lawns, with shade and spaces to hang out with family and friends. The discussion afterwards highlighted other ideas and specific areas of focus for our team. For example, one mother remarked, “It can be as beautiful as you want, but if our children don’t see people that look like them and feel comfortable, it isn’t valuable to us.”

The team was at the forefront of adapting engagement to COVID, with virtual events throughout the summer of 2020, while also taking a more patient approach, slowing the process to allow space for community members to process the challenging events of the time.

The resulting plan envisions a network of public spaces for the Fort Point 100 Acres neighborhood that is welcoming and engaging for a broad range of users, from residents in the surrounding neighborhood, to residents of inland Boston neighborhoods such as Roxbury and Chinatown, to local workers and tourists. The character of these public spaces, as well as the specific outdoor programs included, were drawn directly from conversations with a diverse range of participants in the engagement process. Specific park activities accommodated in the plan that came directly from focus group participants include: play fountain, spaces to host classes/workshops, music, zumba, hammocks/lounge chairs, lawn games, seating with visibility to where kids are playing, grills and picnic tables, and affordable food options.

Equity, Access, and Inclusive Economic Development

While a goal is to be welcoming to all, our team believes that achieving this requires placing a specific focus on centering the comfort and access of park visitors who face additional barriers to accessing or enjoying Boston’s waterfront. The plan, therefore, emphasizes specific target users including residents from neighborhoods that do not have a direct waterfront, like Roxbury and Chinatown, as well as other Boston residents who are disproportionately affected by barriers to open space access, including people of color and immigrants.

The plan takes a multi-layer approach to inclusive access, including tenanting guidance and management/operations recommendations. These recommendations include diversity/cultural competency training for staff and security to proactively address the social dynamics of surveillance and policing over the privately owned open spaces and use of public facilities within the buildings. The plan promotes inclusive economic development through a number of strategies, including tenanting, programming, outdoor vendor selection, and inclusive hiring standards (with a focus on racial diversity).

A goal is to support increased wealth building both in geographies and populations that have been forced to face barriers to economic success due to systemic racism and injustices. Together, these strategies are designed to support the development of a successful open space network that welcomes historically excluded park visitors, brings people together by promoting social interactions among diverse park visitors, and supports wealth building in inland neighborhoods to reduce Boston’s wealth gap.

The plan also includes implementation standards to hold developers accountable to community feedback, including a specific performance-based checklist to support future evaluation of proposed development site plans (57 standards total).

For more information contact Zachary Chrisco or Jill Allen Dixon.

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