10 Qualities of a Great Waterfront Destination

March 13, 2013 31 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Since there is so much local energy and desire to bring life back to downtown Jacksonville, it only makes sense that we share Project for Public Spaces' recommendations for creating a great waterfront destination.

1. Surrounding Buildings Enhance Public Space

Savannah's River Street is home to a collection of 19th century cotton warehouses that are now home to boutique hotels, restaurants and specialty shops.

Any building on the waterfront should boost activity in the public spaces around it. Ideally, there should be a mix of uses, with seamless interaction between inside and outdoors. High-rise towers that lack any public uses on the ground floor are noticeably out of place along rivers, lakes and ocean fronts. They usually create a wall that physically and psychologically cuts off the waterfront from surrounding neighborhoods.

2. Limits are Placed on Residential Development

Downtown West Palm Beach's waterfront is reserved for public use.

Great waterfronts are not dominated by residential development. Why? Because these are places that are full of people, day and night. They are the sites of festivals, markets, fireworks displays, concerts, spontaneous celebrations and other high-energy gatherings. A high concentration of residential development undermines the diversity of waterfront use and creates pressure to prevent nighttime activity from flourishing.

3. Activities go on Round-the-Clock and Throughout the Year

Baltimore's Inner Harbor thrives year-round.

Waterfronts that thrive year-round will reap substantial community and economic benefits. Rain or cold is no reason for a waterfront to sit empty. Creative programming can take rainy and winter weather into account, and smart use of amenities can provide protection from inclement weather. Likewise, people enjoy being by the water at night if appropriate lighting and special events make them feel welcome and safe.

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