A family sitting on rocks at the edge of Boston Harbor at sunset

Leonardo March

Barr Foundation Extends Commitment to Boston Waterfront

With opportunity to build on progress and advance an ambitious vision, foundation launches search for full-time director of its waterfront initiative.

Imagine a waterfront that not only protects Boston and its residents but enhances the city. A waterfront with vibrant public parks and family recreation spaces, bold and inspiring design, thriving local businesses and accessible job opportunities. A waterfront all people can enjoy, benefit from, and feel welcome in.

This vision could become Boston’s reality.

Last October, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh shared the city’s ambitious Resilient Boston Harbor plan for the city’s 47 miles of coastline. The plan calls for 67 acres of new open space and adapted infrastructure, both to expand public parks and connections to opportunities along the waterfront, and to protect the city from recurring flooding caused by rising sea levels and storm surge.

Mayor Walsh’s unveiling of Resilient Boston Harbor was an important call to action: public and private investment must come together to support Boston’s viability and well-being today and for generations to come. Success will require active engagement by residents, businesses, nonprofits and philanthropies, and all levels of government.

Mayor Walsh’s unveiling of Resilient Boston Harbor was an important call to action: public and private investment must come together to support Boston’s viability and well-being today and for generations to come.

The Barr Foundation is ready to do our part. In spring 2016, the foundation launched a special initiative to help ensure that all people and neighborhoods of Boston enjoy and benefit from the Boston waterfront, with a focus on public access and climate resilience. To date, Barr has committed $13 million in support of a range of partners who are developing new public parks, creating wayfinding tools, programming activities at and on the water, advocating for the public’s legal rights to the waterfront, and—importantly—engaging residents to ensure they have a role in deciding their waterfront’s future.

While these investments have been significant and Barr is proud of our partners’ progress on many fronts, now is the time to expand upon these initial commitments. As a first step, Barr is launching a search for a full-time director of the foundation’s waterfront initiative. This work has so far been staffed on a part-time basis by me and colleagues with other responsibilities. We recognize the need now for dedicated staff capacity, commensurate with the level of ambition for the Boston waterfront we share with our partners and as demonstrated by the city’s plans.

Upon this new colleague’s arrival, we will shape further and communicate the next stage of Barr’s waterfront initiative. We know already this must include enhanced collaboration with nonprofit, government, and business partners aligned around shared goals for Boston’s waterfront. We also anticipate that the next phase of Barr’s work will include capital funding, informed by the projects and priorities that emanate from the city’s Resilient Boston Harbor plan.

Protecting Boston from the effects of climate change is vital. But as we consider how the waterfront can help defend us from sea-level rise and storm surge, we would do well to learn from other waterfront cities around the world. Notably, in Copenhagen, the HafenCity district of Hamburg, and Amsterdam, we see the results of a shift in mindset from fighting the water to living with water. These cities and others have realized the co-benefits that can come from approaching the resiliency imperative with vision, boldness, and creativity.

These cities and others have realized the co-benefits that can come from approaching the resiliency imperative with vision, boldness, and creativity.

That’s our aspiration for Boston. We are excited to begin this search for a colleague who will lead Barr’s efforts, in partnership with many others, to help realize that aspiration and the great potential Boston’s waterfront holds for all.

View waterfront initiative director job posting

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