Large development projects around U.S. waterways – a growing trend fueled by new funding

Thousands of communities throughout the country owe their origins to a nearby waterway. The value of regional water resources has never been in dispute, and the coveted assets have never been underestimated. Now, there is a noticeable growing trend for community leaders to launch new initiatives designed to protect and enhance waterways because of their unique economic development potential.

Waterfronts, especially lakefronts, in the state of Ohio are emerging as wellsprings of economic opportunity. The Cleveland Metroparks agency recently began design and engineering work on a project that will result in an estimated $300 million investment in a lakefront property. The initiative will include development of a 36-acre barrier isle that will protect a nearby interstate shoreline from storm surges. Construction work on the project will begin in phases in 2023.

Riverfront Jacksonville rendering

The Easton Economic Development Corporation in Maryland has approved an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to redevelop a corridor along the Chesapeake Bay. Approximately $250 million will be spent over the next 15 years on an initiative that will likely be delivered through a public-private partnership. The long-term redevelopment plan will create a gateway into Easton by constructing a retail corridor that is home to retail space, public meeting facilities, an office complex, waterslide parks, boat ramps, streetscapes, and bike trails.

In Jacksonville, Florida, a development plan touted as the largest public-private partnership in the history of the city will be concentrated on the St. Johns River. A mixed-use development along the city’s riverwalk area is where 12 new hotels, several condominiums, commercial offices, retail space, and exhibition facilities will be constructed. The riverfront project will also include attractive amenities such as a fifteen-acre pedestrian walkway and an amphitheater. Costs for the riverfront development have been estimated at approximately $1.1 billion. Other large projects such as a $150 million mixed-use retail tower will likely proceed to construction no later than April 2024.

Preliminary planning is underway to redevelop a large riverfront area in the historic district of Sacramento, California. Property along the Sacramento River which is part of the Old Sacramento State Park will become home to a hotel development. Citizen input is being encouraged.

A recent $1.5 million grant will support development of waterfront property in Carteret, New Jersey. The new funding will allow local officials to begin an initiative to enhance the Carteret Waterfront Park and Veterans Pier. Currently, the park’s development plan calls for a 3,000-square-foot covered pavilion, a new permanent outdoor stage, conversion of a former bandstand into a food court, and new restroom facilities. This effort will be linked to the construction of an adjoining ferry terminal for which $30 million in federal and state funding has already been secured. Local officials are now overseeing work to dredge the area around the planned waterfront terminal where ferries will eventually dock.

The city of Hingham, Massachusetts, will launch a large effort to redevelop Hingham Harbor. The project will include re-designing and re-building wharves in the area, and it carries an estimated cost of more than $40 million in capital. Final amenities will include seating areas, new signage, a splash pad, harbor walkway extensions, a boat house, electric vehicle charging stations, an open-air marketspace, and a unified veterans’ memorial.

Officials in Cambridge, Maryland, have announced support for a large waterfront development that will begin in 2023. The initiative will begin with demolition work to clear and prepare the property where new public amenities will be constructed. The plan calls for a promenade with mixed-use trails, green space for recreation, facilities for events and entertainment, boat ramp access, and a beach for swimming.

Several other waterfront development projects are planned for Ohio. One project will enhance approximately three miles of trails that connect downtown Cleveland to the city’s East 55th Street Marina. Approximately $11 million in capital will be invested for a significant return on investment. Not only will the project result in an economic boost for the community, but it will also provide quality of life benefits for citizens. Another upcoming initiative will call for a capital investment of $25 million to $35 million to stabilize eroding shale cliffs that are zoned for housing developments.

Citizens in Wenatchee, Washington, will benefit from a partnership between the county’s public utility district and the city as a development project on riverfront property is launched. The Wenatchee Riverfront Development Plan consists of 14 projects parsed out over 15 years. The first phase of the plan includes construction of a picnic pavilion, splash pad, and a train-themed play area. According to early estimates, development of 31 acres along the Columbia River will cost $15 million to $20 million.

Development projects such as these will become even more common as public leaders leverage the value of waterways for expansion, economic development, and revenue producing venues. Collaborative initiatives will result in sustainability assurance, economic vitality, citizen benefits, job creation, and an abundance of contracting opportunities for private-sector firms.