JANUARY 24, 2100 (AP) This year marks the realization of a vision born 85 years ago for a plan to make the North End Waterfront resilient and a recreational attraction in the face of rising sea levels and heightened storm surges. In 2015 then Mayor Martin Walsh, drawing inspiration from a competition for ideas on how to adapt to flooding and changing waterlines, instructed the Boston Redevelopment Authority to establish an overlay zoning district known as “Article 91: the North End Waterfront FUN(d)”. An acronym for “Future Underwater Neighborhood district”, FUN(d) also conveyed both the means (revenue from tourist visits would provide funding for the project), and the goal, a new kind of urban neighborhood that skillfully interacts with an influx of water on an on-going basis.

The first stage of adaptation involved the construction of buffers in the form of aquaculture, wetlands and parks between the former wharfs, and the creation of new docks and boat moorings further offshore. These measures proved to be critical during the devastation of Hurricane Morris in 2019, and, along with the creation of canals both under and in vehicular roadways, spared the neighborhood from complete devastation. A second stage, whereby the ground plane was elevated and extended out over the harbor, created a unique opportunity for visitors to interact with the marine environment. This “catwalk” experience proved extremely popular with tourists who flocked to the North End to experience it after its construction in 2030.

By 2050 the buffer zone had become a marsh devoted to biofuel production, with a research and education center that continues to draw visitors today. Several former streets, now fully converted to canals, offered boat rides and waterfront dining. The Prince Building, a central landmark in the FUN(d) neighborhood, had converted its below grade floors to fish hatcheries and created an open terrace at base flood elevation.

The second half of the 21st century has seen the North End Waterfront continue to thrive and expand as a model of resilient urban planning. While increased temperatures and ecosystem degradation have had catastrophic consequences for populations around the globe, the FUN(d) effort stands out as an example of how careful foresight and skillful implementation can preserve and even enhance the quality of a unique urban neighborhood.

Company Name
ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge

Team Member(s)
Natalie Adams (Pate Adams Landscape Architects), Landscape Architect
Christopher Angelakis (ARC), Architect
Jack Cochran (ARC), Designer
Mark Urrea (ARC), Designer
A. Vernon Woodworth (AKF Group), Engineering/Planning/Sustainability