Downtown Waterfront Planning Begins March 13

The city will kick off its latest round of waterfront development planning with a series of public meetings and tours in mid-March.

This newest planning process, which is expected to last 18 months to two years, involves the redevelopment of the Downtown Waterfront area, from Long Wharf down to the Evelyn Moakley Bridge (Seaport Boulevard) and the James Hook & Co. lobster business, said Chris Busch, waterfront planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

“The events in March are sort of a kick-off, an introduction and orientation,” Busch said. “Then we’ll get into monthly meetings to develop the municipal harbor plan specific to the downtown waterfront area between Long Wharf and Hook Lobsters.”

Over the past 20 years, the city has developed a number of municipal harbor plans for areas including East Boston, Charlestown, South Boston and Fort Point, Busch said. The most recent plan was done in 2009 for about 100 acres on the South Boston side of the Fort Point Channel.

This latest planning effort will build upon the BRA’s 2010 Greenway District planning study and will result in a new municipal harbor plan for the Downtown Waterfront and zoning recommendations for the Greenway District, according to an event flier posted on the BRA website.

The first event in the Downtown Waterfront project will be a project overview meeting, scheduled Wednesday, March 13 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the New England Aquarium IMAX Theater, 1 Central Wharf.

At that meeting—which is open to the public along with the other two events—the BRA will introduce consultants from Utile Inc. and discuss the scope, process and timeline of the planning project.

Planners will be looking at a range of features along the waterfront, including the Harbor Walk, streetscapes, plazas, areas extending into the water such as docks, water transportation offerings and programming opportunities, Busch said. Zoning issues for the area will also be addressed.

Through the planning process, the city hopes to “enhance and build on what’s already out there and what’s been successful,” Busch said, as well as find ways to better connect the waterfront area with the Greenway and surrounding neighborhoods.

The second event is a series of three walking tours of the Downtown Waterfront area that will be addressed in the planning project. The tours are scheduled for Thursday, March 14 at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., starting at Christopher Columbus Park in the North End and extending down to the Hook & Co. site.

The third event, the “Waterfront Activation and Public Realm Visioning Charrette,” will be held on Friday, March 15 from 8-11 a.m. at the Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, in the Atlantic Room.

At the workshop, planners will ask residents, business owners and others in attendance for ideas and suggestions about what is working in the Downtown Waterfront area, what is not and what they would like to see more of in way of improvements and public facilities, Busch said.

“We are looking to engage the public more directly and to mine folks for ideas and creative concepts—wants, needs, improvements—and to sort of build that into a formal document that can help inform the municipal harbor planning process,” Busch said.

So who should attend these Downtown Waterfront meetings?

“Anyone that has an interest in the waterfront and waterfront issues,” Busch said. “We have reached out to business owners, property owners, advocacy groups that are specific to the harbor and waterfront, residents that live within the area—anyone who would be interested in the process.”

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