Past Forward: Designing Waterfront Projects To Capture Local
Waterfront redevelopment, often crucial in restoring cities
and towns to economic and social health, can overlook the value
of reinvigorating a locations beauty, cultural appeal, diversity,
and sense of community. Redevelopment plans often copy models
that succeeded in other cities and ignore those characteristics
that make a destination most appealing-its culture, heritage,
Preservation and restoration of ecological and community assets can contribute
to the creation of a destination with natural and cultural
distinction one that attracts a growing population of travelers
who seek authentic travel experiences. According to a 2002
Travel Industry Association of America study, more than 55
million Americans-over 1/3 of the U.S. traveling public-can
be classified as "geotourists", travelers who seek
places where they can interact with both the people and the
natural features of a destination. Worldwide, more than 100
million geotourists embrace culture, history, and biodiversity
as part of their travel experience.
These geographically savvy travelers represent a new market
that can be tapped. Countries with waterfront assets are recognizing
the opportunities that can be created by nurturing existing
cultural and ecological resources and by satisfying the geotourists'
hunger for new, authentic experiences. Presented with a vision
and plan to capitalize on an areas unique attributes, some
countries are adopting strategic and globally perspective
approaches to redevelopment that protect and promote their
Working with Miami, Florida-based design/build firm Coastal
Systems international, Inc., private developers and governmental
agencies in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin
Islands, are embarking on projects sensitive to the impact
development and tourism have on
local communities and lifestyles. The goal of these initiatives
is to create a safe, stable, welcoming environment that benefits
both travelers and local residents.
Guatemala What began as a renewal
project at two ports, Puerto Izabal and Puerto Quetzal, has
evolved into a comprehensive master plan comprising projects
on the Caribbean and Pacific coast and a design strategy intended
to capture the essence of Guatemala's Mayan and colonial Spanish
cultures. The undertaking incorporates acres of wetlands,
botanical gardens, beaches, and nature preserves, merging
these assets with the surrounding urban environments. The
projects are designed to serve the needs of both the evolving
breed of traveler and the locals in an effort to carve out
some of the most authentic travel experiences in Central America.
Golfito, Costa Rica Originally
planned and built in 1935 as the headquarters for the United
Fruit Company, this Pacific coastal town is being redeveloped
not only to spotlight the areas ecological and cultural treasures,
but also to enrich the local quality of life. The urban revitalization
of Golfito focuses on sustainable tourism through the creation
of a modern waterfront resort that blends into the historical
architecture and legacy left by United Fruit. A new master
plan for the location compromises world-class waterfront facilities
including marinas, residences, hotels, and airport, and a
cruise port, as well as new housing for the area's people
and creation of local jobs.
Frederiksted, St, Croix The
Frederiksted port once was on many cruise lines itineraries,
but the appeal of newer destinations has left the port in
sharp decline. The development team, through a community design
charrette, identified the waterfront town's assets-its proximity
to a historical area offering unique architecture, rich cultural
experiences, and extensive wildlife and ecological attractions.
A plan was developed that will involve extension of the port's
perimeters to establish a "path of charm" meandering
along the waterfront and leading to interior points of interest.
The path is intended not only to appeal to vacationers and
increase awareness of St. Croix's unique heritage, but also
to boost local pride and generate other economic revitalization.
These projects represent a philosophy of "engineered
waterfront environments"-a holistic approach to destination
development that promotes preservation and enhancement of
a location's geographic, cultural, and ecological character.
As countries seek sustained economic and cultural growth,
they are being inspired to look at waterfront development
from a perspective based on authenticity and allegiance to
their past, inherit qualities, and existing offerings. For
waterfront development planners, designers, engineers, and
managers-as well as the people they serve-the goal is to link
cultural and tourist experiences to the waterfront to fulfill
both immediate and long term needs.
R. Harvey Sasso, P.E.-Principal, CSI