Designing an integrated waterfront : responsive redevelopment at the Philadelphia Navy Yard

Elizabeth Woods' (MCP '12) thesis explored that over the past half-century, the physical form and primary purpose of the American urban waterfront has profoundly changed. Due to the combined forces of de-industrialization, globalization, and military restructuring, urban waterfronts have transformed from industrial and manufacturing employment centers to tourist destinations, passive recreation areas, and luxury residential and corporate office districts. The wave of redevelopment efforts has resulted in a general sameness, both in physical design and economic function, across all urban waterfronts. The possibility of an integrated waterfront, in which traditional industrial and manufacturing uses intermingle with spaces for new non-industrial capital investment and public recreation and waterfront access, is the focus of this research. Using the Philadelphia Navy Yard as its primary case study, this research explores the spatial dimensions of contemporary waterfront planning in a changing economic landscape. The research attempts to answer the following questions: Can a city effectively integrate industrial use, new capital investment, and public open space on its waterfront through specific regulations and site design? Does this form of waterfront redevelopment present a viable and meaningful alternative to the standard development models of the past? Through an in depth study of the Navy Yard's economic development policies and design principles, this thesis argues that such goals are difficult to achieve in the American planning and design process, which prioritizes capital investment over other waterfront functions. Nonetheless, the attempt at integration proves that it is possible to diversify our understanding of the contemporary waterfront and its place in urban development.