Future Challenges to Waterfront Cities

The port cities around the world that have redeveloped or improved their waterfronts will have to be alert to the never-ceasing challenges that arise from the ever-constant collision between natural forces and urban growth and development. A few of these can be outlined as follows:

  • Global warming: there are predictions that the water level in the harbors of major cities around the world may rise by several feet. This would be catastrophic for cities like Venice, but Baltimore's Inner Harbor is probably O.K. for a couple of generations. The Promenade is 7.5 feet above Mean Low Tide, and is designed to permit flooding every few years without damage, because the habitable area of all the new buildings was required to be above 10 feet (except the World Trade Center, which is owned by the State).

  • Shrinking energy sources creating both problems and opportunities, such as:
      1. the need for new methods of building smarter and "greener" construction;
      2. populations and businesses gravitating from outlying commuting areas to central cities, where the waterfronts are dominant;
      3. the need to increase the efficiency and appeal of mass transit, including water transportation, vs. the automobile.

  • The demand for additional waterfront land for development, to be created by:
      1. remediating contamination in abandoned industrial areas;
      2. preservation and restoration of wetlands and other natural assets;
      3. providing new local government capital to fund the infrastructure needed to attract private investment.

  • Dealing-making in the fast-changing global world, including:
      1. the competition from new development markets in undeveloped countries such as China and India;
      2. new and evolving land uses accompanying cultural changes;
      3. instantaneous transmission and exchange of currencies by IT;

There may be as many people who are alert to the challenges of the future as there are to the existing hurdles; nevertheless, the successful practitioners of waterfront development cannot rest on their laurels.