“The Diversified Waterfront and the New Port Authority”
by Peter Hendee Brown
in The Port City of the XXI Century
Bruttomesso and Alemany, editors, Venice: RETE, 2011
In the past half-century port authorities throughout the US and around the world have been forced to reevaluate the very purposes for which they were created and to move beyond their origins as single-purpose industrial maritime and transportation operations. In response, each has charted a different course, creating strategies and tactics designed to capitalize on its own unique strengths as it sought to rebuild itself as a business organization and as a government institution while playing a lead role in redeveloping its city’s urban waterfront.
But while there are differences between waterfronts, common themes emerge. Many ports were faced with the decline of traditional businesses like cargo and shipbuilding, leading them to search for new and different uses for waterfront property and new sources of revenues to replace lost maritime rents. Ongoing maritime operations and pride in a heritage as a “port city” exacerbated conflicts between traditional port users and potential new commercial and public uses. As urban living became more popular and neighborhoods grew and matured next door to ports, citizens and politicians began demanding an ever-increasing role in waterfront land use and development decision-making processes. In many cities the public sought to increase access to the waterfront and to limit development that obstructed views. The public also increasingly questioned the autonomy of port agencies and their power to control discrete jurisdictions, resorting to grass roots opposition and political processes to blur or erase what many perceived to be arbitrary boundaries in attempts to knit their cities back together and extend the urban fabric to the water’s edge.