A Toolkit for Planning Forward-Looking Port Areas in Massachusetts

East Boston’s coastal land is included within two separate Designated Port Areas, a state designation that impacts what can and can’t be built. This designation is meant to preserve areas that are suitable for waterfront industrial uses. As East Boston’s history of activism and community organizing has made clear, industry has been in direct opposition to environmental justice goals in the neighborhood. Industrial uses–without accountability mechanisms and public oversight–have contaminated land and water, limited public access to the waterfront, and created other conditions that currently exist as challenges in East Boston. In addition, industry’s proclaimed economic development potential on a regional scale has not been realized locally in East Boston, where 45% of renters face an elevated risk of displacement. Despite carrying the environmental and public health burden of industry, East Boston residents, the majority of whom identify as Hispanic or Latinx, do not gain access to wealth-building opportunities and long-term stability.

However, DPA policy takes a regional perspective and is inflexible to proposals that run counter to its intent of preserving waterfront industrial land. Over time, DPA boundaries can be reviewed and changed, but the regulation does not proactively shift its boundaries to accommodate non-compliant projects. This toolkit suggests that, within the seemingly rigid and undesirable bounds of the DPA, there is room for creative, forward-looking, and community-led planning solutions. Of course, policy priorities shift and regulations can be lifted, and local activism and advocacy can precipitate more fundamental changes to DPA policy. In the meantime, collaboration between local residents, the municipality, mission-driven developers, and industry, can transform DPAs from disinvested, contaminated, and partially abandoned sites into clean, adaptable sites for blue jobs and environmental justice. The following toolkit contains strategies to inform that collaboration, and a possible Municipal Harbor Plan, with the hope that DPAs can become future community assets.

A Toolkit for Planning Forward-Looking Port Areas in Massachusetts

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Condor Street Pilot Project a forward-looking port area

This Site Plan was created by Eve Allen, Alex Boccon-Gibod, Gina Lee, Daniel Caesar Pratama, Yingu Pan, Mikaela Strech, and Ziyi Tang - Masters Students in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. We’d like to thank our wonderful teaching team: Mary Anne Ocampo, Miho Mazereeuw, Lisbeth Shepherd, Larisa Ovalles, and Flavio Vila Skrzypek, and many East Boston community partners who helped advise on this project, including: Kannan Thiruvengadam, John Walkey, Heather O’Brien, Chris Marchi, Frank O’Brien, Jason Ruggiero, Kristina Ricco, Sanjay Seth, Buy-In, and Latifa Zayad.

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Toolkit for Designated Port Areas

Presentation
Designed for Noah Youth Organizer to facilitate play while learning about flooding, future green jobs, and encouraging youth to design shorelines that they want to see in East Boston and to leverage those designs to advocate for change.

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Resources
Character Placards
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