Waterfront is one of Boston’s most alluring assets
Making sure everyone feels welcome there is key
The Coalition for a Resilient and Inclusive Waterfront, a collaborative forum of which the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau is a member, is leading efforts to create a more vibrant Boston waterfront. The coalition is a diverse group of 50 organizations from across the city working to advance a vigorous vision for the future of the city’s waterfront that prioritizes resilience, inclusivity, access, and economic vitality. Together, our coalition is striving to work with Mayor Michelle Wu and Boston’s new leaders to bring together public and private sector partners, as well as community advocates and ambassadors, to cultivate a collective vision for transformative change.
The coalition recently conducted a poll of Boston voters that revealed some important findings. When respondents were asked to list the greatest benefits of the waterfront, 67 percent listed “providing economic opportunities for local businesses and residents” as significant for them. Black and Latino voters ranked these priorities even higher – 73 percent for Black voters and 68 percent for Latino voters.
There are many economic opportunities tied to our waterfront, including an array of natural assets and tourist attractions that help drive the visitor economy. The visitors bureau promotes and markets Boston as a compelling, accessible, and inclusive destination. We sell Boston on the global stage as a city that offers a variety of experiences, cultural attractions, dining, and more. Central to that pitch, now more than ever, is the promotion of outdoor experiences and recreation, and Boston’s waterfront teems with these activities.
Water connects all 23 Boston neighborhoods in a meaningful way. Our famous waterways offer miles and miles of natural beauty and exploration. Efforts to maintain clean and safe water affect all neighborhoods downstream, which is why Boston was internationally acclaimed for investing billions of dollars in a historic cleanup decades ago. Today we live with the positive results of those investments. Now we can do more.
In that same poll conducted by the coalition, there was a significant racial divide when voters were asked how easy it was to access the city’s waterfront — 45 percent of white voters indicating it is “very easy” for them compared to 34 percent of Black voters, 30 percent of Latino voters and 35 percent of Asian voters. This disparity has several layers, including a history of waterfront neighborhoods being seen as unwelcoming to visitors and residents of color in Boston.
Efforts by Mayor Wu and city leaders to lessen these disparities and create new opportunities for connectivity for all with the waterfront and restorative outdoor spaces will be paramount. For the visitors bureau, this undertaking is critical because the waterfront is one of Boston’s most alluring assets in drawing visitors to Boston; we must ensure that access, equity, and sustainability are the foundation of how we promote it in our marketing initiatives.Boston is on the precipice of even greater and equitable growth and improvement in the coming years. We have proven that we can come together to do big things on the waterfront. Boston’s leaders can bring together public and private sector partners, as well as advocates and community leaders, to think big, act boldly, and drive real change.
Hilina D. Ajakaiye is the executive vice president of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.