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Building Community through Public Engagement in Fort Point

Public engagement is always a key component of Sasaki’s planning approach — every successful project starts off with asking the community directly what they love about their neighborhood and what they envision to be part of the neighborhood’s future.

Open houses, where community members are invited to participate in a collective conversation about a project, not only give the Sasaki team invaluable feedback, but also cultivate a sense of pride and ownership around the planning process for the community.

Sasaki is currently engaged in planning and landscape design for 5.5 acres of proposed open spaces integrating resilience strategies in the ever-evolving Fort Point neighborhood in the South Boston. With a rich industrial history and active arts culture, it is a district in flux and many vacant parcels in Fort Point have plans for development in the next several years, including the open spaces that link circulation within the district.


Sasaki, brought on by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA), has been actively engaging the public throughout the process, so far facilitating three separate sessions for feedback and input. The first community workshop was hosted at the Artists for Humanity space in South Boston. The key questions for the first session were: what do you want to do in the open space and how do you want these spaces to feel? The Sasaki team utilized interactive games to encourage participants to dream big and give feedback in an easy and approachable way. These included a gumball game for participants to vote for their favorite ideas, and “Instagram” boards for people to curate elements they want to see in Fort Point’s open spaces.

The second session was an open house hosted by the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh. Held at a community center in Chinatown, the Mayor’s Open House featured city departments, including Public Works, Boston Fire Department, and BPDA. This session amplified the community reach, allowing the design team to gather feedback from a broader, more diverse cross-section of Boston.

The most recent community workshop was hosted again at the Artists for Humanity space, as a follow-up to the first meeting. Here, community attendees were given the opportunity to weigh in on the current design theme frontrunners—Urban Wilderness, Community Living Room, and Outdoor Gallery—provide more feedback, and interface with the Sasaki and BPDA teams. This meeting was an opportunity for the Sasaki team to demonstrate a few ways they have translated the community’s ideas and priorities into a physical master plan for the open spaces. Rather than asking participants to pick one concept over another, conversations and activities were designed to understand what elements of each option resonated with the community. At this meeting, attendees gave their feedback on the design schemes presented by Sasaki, working toward a shared goal of developing a more accessible waterfront for Boston as whole.

In order to provide an accessible platform for more citizens to provide feedback, the team has also released an online survey, which is identical to the in-person questions and feedback opportunity at the community workshop. The project team has encouraged anyone in the Greater Boston region to take the survey and share their thoughts on what they would like to see for the future of Fort Point’s waterfront and new open spaces. Project boards with details on the project can also be downloaded there. Next steps for the team will be to compile and analyze all the feedback from the online and in-person meetings, and use these findings to guide the development of the final open space concept plan.

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