Planning and Development on the East Boston Waterfront

This studio will explore the use of both private investment and public action to solve an important planning/urban design problem: how to fulfill long-standing community aspirations to bring housing and other active uses to the East Boston waterfront. A former island, East Boston was incorporated into the City of Boston in its 19th century maritime heyday. East Boston\’s waterfront was a key part of Boston\’s maritime boom–home to major shipyards and wharves, including the wharf from which Donald McKay\’s world-renowned clipper ships sailed. Now known to outsiders mostly as the location of Logan Airport, East Boston has become a thriving multi-ethnic community whose geography gives it a strong neighborhood identity but also a sense of isolation. With shipping now concentrated in container terminals in other parts of the harbor, large swaths of the East Boston waterfront languish. For decades, planners and neighborhood leaders have envisioned a mixed-use neighborhood there that takes advantage of nearby transit, neighborhood services in Maverick Square and spectacular views of downtown Boston. Yet, despite a generally strong investment climate in Boston and public approvals for several hundred housing units, only one project has begun construction. Clearly, both a compelling urban design vision and more assertive public action are needed to transform the waterfront.

This studio will address both. In addition to developing a physical planning concept for the East Boston waterfront, the studio will explore the use of public sector tools to achieve that vision through the engine of market-oriented development. These tools could include carrots and sticks–exactions, density bonuses, infrastructure funding, development incentives, and direct development by Massport, a public agency charged with port development. Development feasibility will be a key area of inquiry. The studio may include short exploratory trips to urban waterfront developments such as in Toronto, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

Alex Krieger will teach this studio with Matthew Kiefer, and with Lawrence Curtis consulting.