Is Tide Starting to Turn Along the Waterfront?

June 29, 2008

Buffalo WaterfrontThat’s a news article headline that we’ve seen here, what, 10 or 20 times in the past generation?  It seems like the Waterfront is about to turn the corner every year or so.  Years ago the downtown football stadium was going to do the trick; that was followed with other schemes including, today, Bass Pro, Canal Side, the Casino and the Commercial Slip.

So I was a little surprised when I saw the headline yet again “Is Tide Starting to Trun Along the Waterfront?” Did you see the article?

Probably not.  It was an article in the City and Region section of the Boston Globe, and it was about Boston’s Waterfront.  You know, that city in the Northeast to which just about every other city is compared – growth, economy, sports, business, wealth, stability, high-tech and other categories I can’t remember.  They’ve been working on the waterfront for something like 40 years, and there are still sections that just aren’t blossoming as expected.

They came seeking harbor views, fresh, open spaces, and the thrill of watching Boston’s final new neighborhood rise up around them.

But they’re still waiting for the crowd to follow.

The article is actually pretty upbeat:  After years of neglect (“as a wind-blown wasteland”) growth in this section of the Boston waterfront is finally starting.  But unlike Buffalo, which seems to demand instant growth and instant gratification, this development is long-term:

“I have learned over the years that you have to work with the market,” said Kairos Shen, chief planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, who expects the waterfront’s develoment to continue through the year 2040.  “The market went away.  I think that people need to be patient.”

There’s a lesson here for us.  Maybe we should give them a call and ask them what they’ve done right and what they’ve done wrong.