Home News The seas are rising. Are real estate developers Boston’s best hope for fending them off?

The seas are rising. Are real estate developers Boston’s best hope for fending them off?

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But is it enough to prevent a disaster?

Waterfront proponents are not so convinced. I’m glad that the developers take this issue seriously. However, they are concerned that the project-by-project approach could make Boston’s waterfront and lowland inland neighborhoods vulnerable. Next is the issue of fairness. What if flood protection was first built for luxury homes and expensive offices and then postponed elsewhere?

“At the moment of despair, I say,’What the hell, how do you get this?’ Bad Lis, a former CEO of the New England Aquarium and an advocate for the waterfront’s resilience efforts. “Water rises everywhere. We have to plan it. The more important question is not where to start, but who pays for it, and who Is it profitable? “

A group of athletes from Inside Out Fitness Concepts train in the field at Moakley Park. It is expected to overhaul $ 250 million over the next decade to prevent flooding in the neighborhood behind it.Craig F. Walker / Globe Staff

City officials say they are a major public park that can withstand the climate Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, a city-owned seaport. However, some of the greatest resilience proposals depend on the development of the private sector.This is an approach that began under former mayor Marty Walsh, and new mayor Michelle Wu revealed that the development of a new waterfront needs to keep climate change a top priority.

The stakes are huge. The 2016 “Climate Ready Boston” Report Boston Harbor is projected to rise by up to 3 feet between 2000 and 2100. And by the end of the last decade, at least 1 percent of serious floods can occur each year. This can flood up to 2,100 buildings and cost more than $ 2 billion. City-wide reports and some related neighborhood-specific plans offer dozens of solutions, but collective price tags can easily exceed $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion.

So far, Boston has avoided the kind of disaster that struck New York in 2012 at Superstorm Sundi. However, the 2018 Winter Storm highlighted the city’s instability with a river of seawater flowing through the streets of the seaport and a viral video of the dumpster Bob. Pass by the brick and beam buildings at Fort Point.

That year, something that didn’t get much attention but was less important happened. Researchers at UMass Boston, led by Professor Paul Kirshen of the School of the Environment, Decision The huge flood barrier that crosses Boston Harbor is not worth the cost. According to Kirschen, this barrier requires big dig-scale public works projects and is unlikely to be completed by 2050. Boston needs protection long before that. In addition, huge barriers are useful for storms with large surges, but have little effect on preventing floods associated with high tides. Researchers have urged civil servants to now focus on more natural solutions that can provide ecological benefits and reduce the risk of flooding.

Join the Boston Planning and Development Corporation. Last year, BPDA issued new zoning rules that are considered to be at risk of coastal floods on the waterfront and approximately 5,000 acres of cities, including most of the South End and parts of Back Bay. The agency has established a new base elevation point, assuming a 40-inch sea level rise in a severe storm and assuming that the residential space is at least two feet above that point. (Commercial buildings can be lowered by taking flood control measures.) This basically results in the construction of new construction near 22 feet above the low tide mark.

City agencies are also directly targeting high-risk areas.

Off the coast of Dochester Bay, a man fishes along the grounds of the former Bayside Expo Center. Almost half of DBC’s 36 acres are open space, many of which are nearly 22 feet above the minimum water mark.Craig F. Walker / Globe Staff

BPDA has secured a $ 10 million federal grant to fund a $ 20 million berm along the eastern side of Fort Point Channel, where a series of new buildings are being built in the parking lot. Previously it was part of the Gillette campus. Meanwhile, at Flynn Industrial Estate, BPDA has begun to fund new funds for important revetments from long-term land leasing.

The city is also designed to act as a storm barrier when waterfront parks, such as the North End Langone Park and Charlestown’s Ryan Playground, stand up for refurbishment. The largest is Moakley Park in South Boston, with a $ 250 million overhaul over the next decade to prevent flooding in the neighborhood behind it. The altitude of the park rises from the beach, but it rises gradually and is almost imperceptible.

Next to Moakley, Accordia Partners and Ares Management plan to develop 6 million square feet for the Dochester Bay City project, primarily on the grounds of the old Bayside Expo Center. Almost half of DBC’s 36 acres are open space, many of which are nearly 22 feet above the minimum water mark. A new stormwater management system will be built and part of the existing Harbor Walk will be elevated along the adjacent Harbor Point Housing Complex. Overall, Accordia estimates that the contribution of development to this resilient task will cost about $ 70 million.

“The private sector will not only be part of the solution, but will drive it,” said Accordia Principal Dick Galvin.

In Charlestown, developer Flatley Co. has a similar plan to reinforce the fragile part of the coastline behind the sleeping bag center as part of its planned 25.5-acre redevelopment. They reinforce work next to the Ryan Playground with a 0.5-mile resilience project that includes waterfront walkways and stairs leading to Mystic, against seawater that could otherwise reach distant lowlands. Build a protective barrier. Eastern Cambridge and Summerville. CEO John Roche said it was clearly cheaper to simply build a breakwater to protect Flatley’s own site. Instead, larger landscaping operations add tens of millions of dollars to development costs.

However, developers have an important incentive to think broadly about resilience. It adores city and state regulators who ultimately decide what they can build.

Proponents say these projects represent a promising start, but they point out that there is still a lot left to be protected.

“You have a lot of fortune on a resilient island,” said Deanna Moran of the Conservation Law Foundation. “If we were hit by a huge storm, it wouldn’t help anyone.”

Richard Rhodes and his dog Cooper pass through the parking lot of the former Bayside Expo Center. Accordia Partners and Ares Management plan to develop 6 million square feet around here.Craig F. Walker / Globe Staff

Moran said he hopes more public money will be invested in broader efforts, especially if the construction boom slows and new projects stagnate. Funding could come from excise or property tax increases on all significant real estate in a particular waterfront area, like how business improvement districts today work.

“I’m nervous about the idea that redevelopment is the number one source of funding for climate change resilience,” Moran said.

President Cathy Abbott of Boston Harbor Now agrees.

“The majority of the developers we talk to and hear take it very seriously,” Abbott said of rising sea levels. “”[But] You can’t rely solely on the private sector. “

As growth continues, Abbott wants to avoid the shortcomings of Seaport, which predicts that billions of dollars in new developments could face routine floods. Policymakers need to have a tough discussion about the waterfront plots that should be developed, the plots that shouldn’t be developed, and how to make everything more elastic, she said.

“Now it’s clear that we didn’t do enough,” Abbott said. “We didn’t raise it enough. We couldn’t protect the edges well. We’re not starting to limit where we can and cannot build.”

Kirshen, an expert at UMass Boston, said the neighborhood approach has several advantages, especially in cities like Boston where there are blueprints for areas in need of protection.

“The city knows what it has to do and when it has to do it,” Kirshen said. “The challenge the city is currently facing is how to raise money … where does that money come from? It will come from these public-private partnerships.”


John Chest can be reached at [email protected].. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto..

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