The City of Boston’s new coastal Zoning Overlay District that went into effect last month includes Charlesrtown’s waterfront along the Mystic River, the area around the Schrafft’s City Center wrapping around to Rutherford Avenue area and Mishawam as well as the Navy Yard along the Boston Harbor. The zoning requires new development in Charlestown and other Boston coastal neighborhoods to take additional steps to limit the damage and displacement related to the impacts of coastal storms and sea level rise.
According to recent studies, the one-percent annual chance flood – that has started to occur more and more frequently in recent years – storm surge would first cross the waterfront at Schrafft’s City Center and Ryan Playground, fill the Schrafft’s Center parking lot, and then flood onto Charlestown’s Main Street and beyond into the community.
However, the Flatley Company, who recently filed its Master Plan with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for its redevelopment of the former Domino Sugar Factory site at 425 Medford Street, offered a bold vision to combat sea level rise and protect the neighborhood from flooding.
Flatley will present the latest 425 Medford Master Plan to the community at the next PLAN: Charlestown Community Meeting on November 29 at pm. The public is encouraged to join and can sign up for the zoom webinar in advance at https://sullivanlaw.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1CXHCENJS-Cpxwnej_frlQ.
In its filing, Flatley prioritizes climate resiliency, resulting in a project highlighted by a multi-million-dollar 2070 climate resiliency solution that will not only protect the project site’s land but, according to Flatley’s John Roche, hundreds of acres of Charlestown and neighboring areas in Somerville and Cambridge.
According to its BPDA filing, Flatley’s plan will protect both public and private properties and infrastructure from catastrophic flooding by building a 5-acre resilient solution at what is considered the most vulnerable breach point along the Mystic River.
According to Flatley’s filing the resilient flood barrier they propose will not be just a “wall” blocking the people of Charlestown from the waterfront. Instead, the flood barrier will be a new publicly accessible waterfront landscape stretching from Flatley’s property located at 529 Main Street, along 465 Medford Street to 425 Medford all totaling a half mile in length. This new resilient edge to the waterfront will include an extension to the Harborwalk and other public pathways, passive and active recreation areas and seating, green spaces and parks, multiple look-out areas, shade shelters, floodable seat steps, and a public boat launch, kayak launch, and dock.
Roche said this resiliency solution will invite the people of Charlestown back to the waterfront in good weather, and will keep them safe from it in bad and could prevent an estimated $290 million in losses caused by just a single flood event.
“We understand the urgency at this vulnerable point in the Mystic River and the tremendous impact it will have on the quality of life of residents and businesses in Charlestown,” said Roche. “We felt strongly that this is something that needs to be done first as part of our development in order to protect this area from storms. We believe this project is for the people of Charlestown, the surrounding community and city and will alleviate the tremendous disruption that could occur with multiple municipal infrastructure projects throughout the neighborhood.”
Roche said these resiliency measures provide real solutions to real problems along this section of the Mystic River, and, recognizing the urgency of climate change and the need for action, Flatley would plan to build the resiliency infrastructure components first. Roche said the impact of these measures will protect thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses.
In addition to the direct impact Flatley’s infrastructure improvements will have against rising sea-levels and storm surge at Charlestown’s most vulnerable breach point, the resiliency components of the plans will also save Charlestown from the need to undertake many of its own costly and disruptive public projects aimed at the same goals.
Roche pointed to several planning studies – including 2017’s Climate Ready Boston, Charlestown – and argued without the measures put in place by Flatley, significant public infrastructure projects would have to be undertaken that would be costly to taxpayers and disruptive to residents for years.
Flatley’s Master Plan has been identified by some as the best solution to prevent catastrophic flooding through 2070 while saving the city from having to undertake the multi-million dollar project on the back of taxpayers.