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.

4. Flexible Design Fosters Adaptability

Charleston's Waterfront Park.

Successful waterfronts must adapt to many changes that bring different users at different times. Programming and management are helpful in serving diverse audiences, but flexibility must also be built into the design of the place. Instead of a permanent stage, for example, which is well-used in the summer but not the winter, a retractable or temporary stage could be used. Likewise, it is important to have on-site storage for movable chairs, tables, umbrellas, and games so they can be used at a moment’s notice.

5. Creative Amenities Boost Everyone’s Enjoyment

The Detroit International Riverwalk includes amenities for all ages.

The best waterfronts feature amenities that increase people’s comfort and enjoyment. A bench or waste receptacle in just the right location makes a surprising difference in how people choose to use a place. Lighting strengthens a square’s identity and can draw attention to specific activities, pathways or entrances. Public art is a great magnet for children of all ages to come together. Whether temporary or permanent, amenities help establish a convivial setting for social interaction.

6. Access Made Easy by Boat, Bike and Foot

Downtown St. Petersburg's waterfront is easily accessible by boat, bike and foot.

Waterfronts flourish when they can be accessed by means other than private vehicles. In Sydney, Stockholm, Venice, Helsinki, and Hong Kong, people head to the waterfront via boat as much as by land. You can dramatically enhance the character and experience of a waterfront when it is easily reached in ways other than driving. Access by foot and bike are a crucial element of the transportation mix, which is why many of the most beloved are crowned by pedestrian promenades and bike lanes. People feel more at ease when not overwhelmed by traffic and parking lots, creating a climate that fosters a full breadth of waterfront activity. Where streets are absolutely necessary for commercial deliveries, or access to retail or marine uses, they should be designed to minimize their impact on pedestrian safety and enjoyment, and always be closed for events and festivals.

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