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.



7. Local Identity is Showcased


In San Francisco, Dungeness Crab is locally caught and served everywhere.

The greatest waterfront destinations are found in cities that truly orient themselves to the water. Venice and Stockholm are defined by their waterfronts, and residents and visitors alike naturally gravitate there. Making the most of local identity, history and culture stimulates widespread interest in the waterfront and creates a unique sense of place. Frequent opportunities to appreciate local art, music and theatre helps draw a community together around the waterfront.



8. The Water Itself Draws Attention


Now defunct, Sail Jacksonville was an example of creative programming that utilized the river as a major draw.

The water itself is the greatest asset of any waterfront, and should become the centerpiece for programming and activities. This can include traditional marine uses such as a ferry terminal or fishing port, which helps preserve a place’s identity. Additional activities may include water-taxis, boat tours, restaurants or bars on anchored boats, fishing, rock skipping, floating pools, kayaking and swimming. Many of these activities not only attract users to waterfront but also generate interest among onlookers. Embracing the natural uses of a waterfront leads to thematic programming such as boat festivals, fish markets, bait and tackle shops, and performances on floating stages.



9. Iconic Buildings Serve a Variety of Functions


Toronto's Queen's Quay Terminal is a former cold storage warehouse that has been converted into a waterfront shopping mall.

Iconic, attention-grabbing buildings that reflect a human scale and do not detract from the surrounding context can be a boon to the waterfront, so long as they serve a variety of functions. On a recent weekend morning in Stockholm, the busiest building along the waterfront was, surprisingly, the City Hall. Surrounded by a plaza, park, and courtyards, this landmark shares its slice of the waterfront with a pier where boats embark on waterfront tours. Clearly, this City Hall (where the Nobel Prize banquet is held each December) is more than a one-dimensional icon, it is also a good neighbor exhibiting a strong sense of place. Today’s iconic buildings should strive to achieve the same flexibility and public-spirited presence.



10. Good Management Maintains Community Vision


Long Beach, CA's Rainbow Harbor.

Management is essential to ensure that a successful waterfront stays that way. Cities could adopt the model of the Business Improvement Districts (BID) that have been successful in restoring and maintaining the vitality of many downtowns and commercial districts. A “WID” could forge partnerships between city agencies, property owners, waterfront businesses and community organizations in the surrounding district, so that waterfront programming–such as temporary exhibits of local artists or music performances– gives the place a unique character. Such an organization would be very helpful in sustaining a diverse variety of activities and events throughout the year and implementing programs that can be used to generate revenue that benefits the waterfront as a whole.

Article by Project for Public Spaces at http://www.pps.org/reference/10_qualities_of_a_great_waterfront/

About Project for Public Spaces

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Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Our pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs.

PPS was founded in 1975 to expand on the work of William (Holly) Whyte, the author of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Since then, we have completed projects in over 2500 communities in 40 countries and all 50 US states. Partnering with public and private organizations, federal, state and municipal agencies, business improvement districts, neighborhood associations and other civic groups, we improve communities by fostering successful public spaces.


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