Urban Waterfront Manifesto

© 1999 The Waterfront Center. This document may not be reproduced without express permission from The Waterfront Center.

Dear colleagues:

To promote sensitive, site-specific urban waterfront planning and development that reflects the individuality of each place, we, together with associates, have developed a set of principles to suggest to communities. When done right, we're saying, waterfront redevelopment projects can be exciting and transforming.

We issue our statement to counter the unfortunate tendency by some in the design and development fields given to what we term formula approaches — copying something that has worked in one place and transferring it elsewhere, or building projects unsympathetic to their unique waterfront setting. There are also cases of over-building and excessive privatization along urban waterfronts today.

The Urban Waterfront Manifesto has been endorsed already by a number of our associates. If you want to add your name to the list, please let us know.

Urban Waterfront Manifesto

Beach Restoration Qinhuangdao City, China

    Water is a defining force that fundamentally shapes the character of each place it touches. The role of water in transport, industry, sanitation and nourishment made it the raison d'ętre of human settlement. It is a feature to be honored and celebrated — not to be treated merely as cosmetic or as just a commodity.

    Waterfronts, the unique places where land and water meet, are a finite resource embodying the special history and character of each community. Urban waterfronts, like the cities they help define, are dynamic places. The last three decades have witnessed profound changes along abandoned or underused waterfronts. The trend is accelerating in cities around the globe. It applies to canals, lakes and rivers as well as coasts.

    With this growing popularity comes a tendency by some to look for the quick solution, to adopt a formula that may have worked somewhere else. In the 1980's it was the "festival marketplace" fad. In the 1990's, it is the "urban entertainment district" and/or stadiums. In a time of pervading sameness and homogenization worldwide this is particularly dismaying because waterfronts above all factors give each community a chance to express its individuality and help distinguish it from others.

    We, the undersigned, urge careful consideration of the following principles. They are offered in the spirit of encouraging communities to aim for distinctiveness as they undertake the challenge of converting or conserving their waterfront resources.


Planning in Yorktown Virginia



Erie Basin Before and After

Ann Breen, Co-Director of the Waterfront Center

Prepared July 10, 1999
Cape May, New Jersey, USA



Want to add your name to the growing number? E-mail us at mail@waterfrontcenter.org.

e-mail: mail@waterfrontcenter.org        © 2007 The Waterfront Center
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