And beachfront high-rise development is still OK providing the developer plants a few weeds in front of the buildings.
Will climate change end waterfront living? Not if you can afford it
Boston has endured several tumultuous eras, from being the birthplace of the American revolution to its seesawing fortunes as power and influence was wrested away by other US cities.
Now Boston faces its most existential threat yet – the rising seas.
Ironically, Boston is experiencing a surge in waterfront development at the very moment its growing risk to disastrous flooding becomes clear. The refashioning of Boston’s waterfront holds valuable lessons to other cities threatened by sea level rise – in terms of innovation but also wrenching concerns over displaced communities.
“It is an unfortunate quirk of timing,” admitted Nick Iselin, the general manager of development at Lendlease. Last summer, the property company completed the first phase of its Clippership Wharf development in East Boston, on the Boston Harbor waterfront. Nearly all of the 284 apartments have already been snapped up, with a second site in the same project set to be completed this year. In all, there will be 478 residencies on the seven-acre site.
City authorities are planning around a contingency of 40 inches of sea level rise by 2070 – a scenario that would inundate large swathes of Boston.
But Lendlease is embracing an approach more attuned to nature, one that leans upon the idea of living with the encroaching water rather than waging war against it – an ethos more common in the Netherlands or Venice than the US. Clippership Wharf has Boston Harbor’s first “living shoreline” – a network of natural plantings, salt marshes, rocky beaches and wildlife habitats aimed at dissipating waves from storms and subtly taming the high tides.
This Guardian article is an intriguing departure from their normal position on beachside living. Most Guardian articles slam shoreline development as being too hazardous in the age of climate change, but Oliver Milman’s Guardian story reads like an infomercial written by the developers.
Having said that, the Guardian for once makes a valid point. Boston, like many US coastal cities, is pretty much built on landfill. The Guardian notes that Boston’s Logan International Airport used to be a series of sand islands.
The idea that cities which have been pushing back the seas for centuries will suddenly pack up and leave if threatened by a few inches more than expected has always been one of the more absurd green ideas – as even Guardian contributors are starting to notice.