Project Information

Project Information

Background Information

The Chelsea waterfront falls under the Massachusetts’ Designated Port Area program, which prioritizes “physical and operational features needed to support businesses” and industries that require “marine transportation or large volumes of water” (Bowles, 2010; City of Gloucester, 2012; Massachusetts Government, 2016). DPAs allow industries in Chelsea, MA to occupy the majority of waterfront land, which leaves few areas for public use, such as parks, near waterfront neighborhoods. Physical barriers such as distance from their neighborhoods, few crosswalks, and few stop lights, also inhibit the use of and access to the Chelsea waterfront (EPA, 2016;Wessell, 2014; Ou, 2016). These areas are susceptible to industrial and noise pollution making them less desirable, therefore they are populated by people of lower income who are often minorities. The majority of Chelsea’s Latino and low-income residents live in these cramped, rundown areas near the waterfront (Bash, 2000; US Census, 2010). Therefore, minority residents experience environmental injustice, defined as the increased risk of pollution, negative health effects, poor living conditions, and the lack of empowerment and voice primarily in low-income areas.

Our Goal

From knowledge gained through our literature review and communications with our sponsor, we developed a primary goal to guide our efforts. The goal of our project was to determine ways to promote public uses on the industrial waterfront of Chelsea, MA that express the vision of stakeholders, especially low-income residents living around the Chelsea River. In order to accomplish the goal we completed the following objectives:

1. Examined industrial and working waterfront cities in North America, which have redeveloped their waterfront, to learn how they have promoted public access along their waterfronts and involved the public in that process.

2. Identified the preferences of Chelsea’s stakeholders, primarily low-income residents living on the waterfront, local government, industries, and property owners, about Chelsea’s waterfront development and public access.

3. Determined best practices for increasing public access on Chelsea’s waterfront with input from local stakeholders.


We used a number of different methods to achieve these objectives:

First, we investigated other working waterfronts in North American cities to generate ideas and techniques for waterfront development that can be applied to Chelsea based on their similarities. We conducted interviews with key local government officials in Lynn, MA, Gloucester, MA, New Bedford, MA, Vancouver, WA, Astoria, OR, and Baltimore, MD

Second, we conducted interviews and surveys to understand the preferences of local stakeholders and to ensure that their preferences are satisfied by the City’s upcoming Master Harbor Plan. This was done in two steps: interviewing leaders in Chelsea and surveying Chelsea residents. We conducted 86 inperson intercept surveys with local residents of Chelsea in both English and Spanish to accommodate Chelsea’s diverse population, with the help of the high school group, Environmental Chelsea Organizers (ECO).

Third, we gathered insight on the public’s opinion for opportunities of redeveloping the industrialized waterfront the team evaluated the information on current practices gathered from interviews and research from other cities.


The findings from our surveys, interviews and case studies of other waterfront cities  are organized into three themes: how Chelsea residents feel about their community, public preferences for the waterfront, and best practices for waterfront redevelopment. In total we had eleven findings, of which we have included five below.