Boston’s proximity to the ocean has long been an advantage, but with climate change underway and sea levels rising, new developments are taking steps to go green and stay out of harm’s way.
Encore Boston Harbor hotel and casino isn’t gambling with climate change as it doubles down on sustainability through its horticulture program. Originally void of vegetation, the resort’s grounds now boast approximately 790 newly planted trees selected by Patrick Chadwick, director of horticulture and floral. These trees range from multicolored varieties of maples to weeping flowering cherries and Scotch pines—each chosen not only for aesthetic reasons, but the hardiness of the plant. The program goes below the surface with a turf designed for Wynn Resorts that does not require as much watering or pesticides as normal grass does, allowing the horticultural department to use mostly electric or manual gear to maintain it. “We will also be irrigating the property from a rainwater collection system,” Chadwick says. “This filtered rainwater is used throughout the property for watering our trees, shrubs and flowers.” Slated to open in June, Encore also set its sights on the surrounding harbor, recently completing an estimated $68 million cleanup of the once famously contaminated Mystic River.
In its first property in Boston, St. Regis Residences draws fun inspiration from the sea, with the tower’s facade alluding to billowing sails, rolling waves and the gentle arc of a ship’s bow. But the building—boasting 114 condos with harbor views in the Seaport spot formerly home to Whiskey Priest and Atlantic Beer Garden—is equipped to treat the sea with a bit more caution. Set to open in early 2021, the property will include a number of resiliency features, the most notable a permanent deployable flood barrier system skirting the perimeter. Taking into account rising sea levels, the team at Elkus Manfredi Architects chose a system that’s easily accessible and adaptable, consisting of a flex wall that rises 22.5 feet above Boston’s City Base (an adjusted sea level)—much higher than Seaport Boulevard’s current elevation—and is re-enforced with additional bracing posts. “It’s our responsibility as architects to educate the public and our clients and to provide design solutions that protect the public realm,” says William Halter, vice president at Elkus Manfredi. The wall combines a waterproof membrane with woven Kevlar and is stored in a channel that’s mechanically sealed with steel panels once the storm subsides and the water flows back into the harbor.
In Boston, there are few places as in flux as the Seaport, and Arrowstreet had to wade through environmental uncertainty when designing two 12-story buildings set to open in spring 2020—a Hyatt Place hotel that boasts 294 rooms and a separate mixed-use glass-walled stunner with 304 rental units as well as restaurant, retail and office space. Some 500,000 square feet, the project transforms the cityscape across from the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion, but rising tides mean the Seaport is about to have a lot more sea in it. “One of the challenges in the project was figuring out how to protect the ground floor and design the facade to resist a potential storm event,” says Amy Korte, principal at the Boston-based architecture and design firm. Arrowstreet cleverly camouflages some of its flood-proofing efforts, like using elevated dining patios that will also raise the interior elevation of the first floors of both structures. But some of the work is bare for all to see, says Korte: “The glass storefront for the retail and lobbies is engineered to withstand a high elevation of water.”
Bostonians aren’t the only ones setting their sights on Clippership Wharf, the nearly 500 residences that are slated to open in Eastie this May. Soon enough, ducks, lobsters, seaweed and other native species will make themselves at home, too, thanks to a living shoreline in the inner harbor. Saltwater marshes—installed throughout terraces made from granite blocks excavated from the site’s old sea walls—will continue to grow in the next few years, attracting wildlife while also acting as a buffer during severe storm surges. “The transformation that the site undergoes during the course of a day is really kind of remarkable,” says Nicholas Iselin, Lendlease’s general manager of Boston development, who’s overseeing the project. “The inner harbor has a 10-foot tide on a normal day, and so the living shoreline is completely underwater at high tide and completely exposed at low tide.” Some 10,000 square feet of dining and retail is expected to beckon the public to the shore for the first time in more than 30 years, in addition to a walkway through the 7-acre site that includes access to equipment from Charles River Canoe and Kayak. Says Iselin: “One of the most interesting opportunities was to think a little bit differently about public access and create an experience that wasn’t just about looking at the water behind bollards and chains.”