Creating a Boston Waterfront that is reflective of a diverse city.


The Waterfront Initiative aims to create a welcoming waterfront that supports the diversity of all of Boston's neighborhoods.

Established in 1866, the Massachusetts state law Chapter 91, was written to protect and promote the public’s rights to the waterfront. Over the years, uncoordinated development and inconsistent reinforcement of regulations has led to short-falls in access and development along the 47 miles of Boston's waterfront. In 2016, Barr launched its Waterfront Initiative to help promote equitable access and development to the Boston waterfront for all. Today, this initiative supports a group of partners and residents dedicated to building a waterfront that is:

Welcoming Inviting and affordable for everyone, particularly for people and communities historically excluded.

Fun Offering a range of exciting activities and interesting places designed for people’s enjoyment and comfort.

Productive Providing good jobs, housing, and other economic opportunities and benefits.

Resilient Protecting Boston’s Harbor-adjacent and inland neighborhoods from impacts of climate change like storm surges and flooding.

Barr Waterfront Initiative Goals

Barr aims to ensure that all the neighborhoods along the 47 miles of Boston waterfront benefit from and enjoy a vibrant waterfront experience.

Graphic of people enjoying the waterfront

The Waterfront Initiative strategy centers policy and collaboration across the waterfront ecosystem. Our goal is to ensure that the waterfront is part of every local policy and planning conversation with an eye toward its impact on waterfront resiliency, inclusion, equity, and the marine dependent industries it supports.

Our objective is to support the following:

  • Efforts for a robust public process and engagement in regulatory reform and discussions.
  • The public sector in updating regulations and policies so that they address present-day climate issues with care and comprehensiveness. Community activation and bold communications that educate stakeholders.
  • The research and piloting of new strategies at the local and state level to carry out this work.

Boston’s waterfront is intricately linked with the city’s identity, economy, and current growth. But how many people in Boston feel connected to that waterfront, or even welcome?


Barr has awarded over $32 million through this special initiative.

To see all recent Boston Waterfront Initiative grantmaking, visit our grants database.


Boston Waterfront Initiative Grantmaking Process and Inquiries

Grants awarded by the Barr Foundation originate in different ways. The majority are initiated by our staff or through a request for proposals (RFP) process.

We welcome inquiries from those who feel their work may align with Barr’s Boston Waterfront Initiative goals and who wish to introduce themselves to us. The best approach is to email Jill Valdés Horwood, Director, Boston Waterfront Initiative with a brief description (we suggest 300–400 words) of your organization and the funding opportunity you would like us to consider. Given the high volume of inquiries we receive and limited staffing for special initiatives, it may take a couple weeks to hear back.

Read more about our grantmaking process

Recent Boston Waterfront Initiative News on our Blog