What would the North End be like in 2100 if the City allowed business as usual to persist? Most first floor shops have closed due to twice-daily tidal flooding. Landlords and homeowners are underwater, both literally and financially, as debts increase with damages that exceed flood insurance reimbursement.
While hard coastal protections may keep the waters out for a time, current building code and FEMA best practices advocate for vertical retreat. Vertical retreat relies on each property finding its own resilience path, but we propose a system by which the public can guide and incentivize.
2015 – Resilience Report Card and Loans
While the North End’s iconic streetscape, immortalized by Jane Jacob’s in “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” faces a formidable challenge, coordinated action can create an alternate future. Recognizing the value of this historic immigrant neighborhood and its dynamic street-life, the City can actively encourage investments at the front end that prevent damages over the long-run. Following the lead of federal, state, and local actors, building owners are able to respond with a course of action for redesigning a building prepared for higher seas, a wider range of temperatures, and larger amounts of precipitation. A simple, user-friendly Resilience Report Card indicates a building’s vulnerability and allows the City to map risk and target investments. Resiliency scores are posted on building facades and make owners eligible for Resilience Loans made available by investing projected insurance savings towards upfront resilience project costs. A building owner approaches the lending agency with Resiliency Report Card in hand, to which the loan officer responds with an appropriately sized loan that will utilize projected insurance savings to finance the upfront mitigation costs.
2015+ – Post Disaster Recovery – Urban Buy-Out Program
The City promotes an ambitious “vertical retreat” strategy through an innovative buy-out program, tailor-made for densely built urban waterfronts built during the 19th and early 20th centuries. By purchasing first stories in the most vulnerable areas, City-owned first floors are dedicated to appropriate uses during the several decades of intermittent inundation – public meeting places, temporary or seasonal food venders, parking, water retention, and so on. Development rights are able to be transferred to additional floors on top of the building, retaining as much original value as possible. By transferring risk from small businesses and landlords at risk of bankruptcy, the city can maintain the residential housing stock by absorbing the risk of a changing climate while maintaining vibrant streetlife.
2100 – A New Streetlife
Once all of the properties on a street segment have either sold their property to the city or have otherwise agreed to a district strategy, sidewalks can be built up to future flood levels. Asphalt is removed and a salt water marsh ecosystem is introduced in its place. The street life of the North End is as vibrant as ever, only now birds and plant life join the activity by which Jane Jacobs. Instead of the neighborhood walling itself off from its defining characteristic – the Atlantic – the North End of 2100 has adapted and learned to thrive with water.
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Thaddeus Pawlowski, Urban Design
Kira Sargent, Landscape Architecture
Jon Springfield, Urban Planning
Lindsay Woodson, Architect, resilience consultant
with contributions from Shanika Hettige, Tom Ishida, Jared Katseff