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BSA News

Jun 29, 2023

WDC Study Details New Flood Protection Plan for Downtown Waterfront

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Fort Point Channel waterfront by BSA headquarters.

Photo by Keith Supko.

Anyone questioning the BSA's commitment to combating climate change would be well advised to consult the recently released Conceptual District Protection and Resiliency Plan. As the final report of the Climate Resilience Task Force of the Wharf District Council (WDC), it covers the coastal region from Christopher Columbus Park to the Congress Street bridge, adjacent to BSA headquarters, and inland along Congress Street to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Culminating a project begun in 2019, the report presents a sobering account of the effects of climate change, proposes engineering solutions beyond a property-by-property approach, and estimates an at least $877 million cost to construct barriers and other infrastructure to protect against a one percent flood event, also known as a 100-year flood.

“The WDC report provides much greater detail about the kinds of solutions needed to protect not only the downtown waterfront, but also the Rose Kennedy Greenway, several historic properties, and parts of the financial district. The study illuminates the importance of getting property owners to work together across property boundaries in order to provide a continuous line of defense,” said BSA board member Bud Ris, who has been involved with the Climate Ready Boston project since its inception.

With funding from the state and district property owners, the WDC report builds on such past climate initiatives as 2016's Climate Ready Boston and the 2020 Coastal Resilience Solutions for Downtown Boston and North End. Transcending initiatives focused on individual properties, the 2023 report breaks the district into six geographic divisions and proposes specific engineering solutions that can integrate with larger citywide plans. Based on analysis from engineering consultant Arup, Inc., it recommends a range of infrastructure upgrades and additions—including seawalls, elevated harbor walks, stormwater storage and drainage tanks, and living shorelines—to be deployed in phased construction. The overall project is estimated to cost up to $1.2 billion and to save $3.9 billion in losses.

The WDC report also echoes earlier mitigation initiatives. The 2015 Boston Living With Water design competition—a partnership between the City of Boston, The Boston Harbor Association, and the BSA—yielded creative proposals for protecting a single building, a neighborhood, and a key element of city infrastructure . To date, however, very little construction has commenced on comprehensive solutions commensurate with the challenges detailed in the WDC report.

The final report is available on the WDC website as a complete report or an executive summary.

Additional coverage can be found in Banker and Tradesman, Archinect, and The Boston Globe (paywall).