Cities Are Remaking Their Waterfronts

Urban waterfronts around the U.S. are experiencing a revitalization. Once the center of industry for many cities, public and private developers alike have begun to sink resources into creating alluring living, office and recreational space along the refurbished waterfronts.

City waterfronts have historically been a center for shipping and trade rather than recreation. But as urban areas have shed much of their industrial characteristics during the last half the 20th century, many of these shipping centers have gone unused.

This disuse has led cities around the world to undertake waterfront redevelopment efforts, with the aim of returning these areas to productive use. Developers turn the docks, warehouses and other industrial structures that once dominated these areas into residential, recreational and office properties better suited to the needs and patterns of modern urban life.


New York City has recently seen a complete transformation of its waterfront into livable, recreation focused areas with the addition of new green spaces like Brooklyn Bridge Park and Gantry Plaza State Park, as well as new residential neighborhoods rise in waterfront spots like Williamsburg, Red Hook and Long Island City. Once a shipping yard, New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge Park now has a carousel, sports facility, and art installations.

This effort, much of which was spearheaded by the mayoral administration of Michael Bloomberg, continues under the city’s Vision 2020 plan, which includes 130 specific projects aimed at transforming the New York waterfront. Mayor Bill de Blasio has also earmarked some $240 million to regenerate the city’s Brooklyn Navy Yard and Army Terminal. Private developers, meanwhile, are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into waterfront projects in areas like Brooklyn’s Sunset Park and Staten Island’s North Shore.


Smaller cities around the U.S. are also tackling waterfront redevelopment projectsAllentown, Pennsylvania currently has a  $350 million riverfront redevelopment project underway. The project will revitalize the waterfront of the Lehigh River through the construction of six office buildings and three apartments buildings, along with half-mile river walk, two plazas, and floating docks.

Nashville, Tennessee, has been redeveloping their riverfront since 2005. Already the city has opened a 6.5 acre park along the Cumberland River. The park includes a large amphitheater, many trails and even a climbing wall. Work along the riverfront park continues as plans expect it to grow tenfold.

Urban waterfronts are returning to the center of urban life. While before the center of trade, industry and a source of job for many, the majority of revitalizations are directed towards recreation, housing and mixed use property.

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