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Climate Ready Charlestown - Phase I

We're creating neighborhood solutions to coastal flooding from sea level rise and coastal storms.

This Climate Ready Boston program identified locations in Charlestown that face risks from coastal flooding and sea level rise. Phase I was completed in 2017 and developed near- and long-term coastal resilience solutions for the Phase I study area. The report included Sullivan Square, the Neck, and Rutherford Avenue.

Phase II was completed in 2022.

Coastal Resilience Solutions

The City worked in partnership with local residents, businesses, and regional partners to find coastal resilience solutions for Sullivan Square, the Neck and Rutherford Avenue.

Read the 2017 Report

Near-Term Actions

Actions

Proposed near-term actions integrate coastal resilience solutions in existing City of Boston capital projects. The create a new waterfront open space and flood protection system through private redevelopment.

Elevating Main Street by an average of two feet in front of the Schrafft’s Center driveway would block the main flood pathway through Charlestown up to a 1% annual chance flood with nine inches of sea level rise (2030s), plus 1 foot of freeboard. Achieving a higher flood protection level would not be feasible unless the existing fire station at the intersection of Medford Street and Main Street were redesigned or relocated.

This would protect over 250 residents, at least 60 businesses, first responder facilities, and the Rutherford Avenue underpass. The estimated cost for design and construction is $2-3 million. The roadway elevation could be integrated in the ongoing Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square redesign project, currently in design and scheduled to begin construction in 2021.

One option is to raise Main Street so that the centerline meets the target flood protection elevation.
One option is to raise Main Street so that the centerline meets the target flood protection elevation.

Ryan Playground’s low-lying waterfront playing fields, seating, dugouts, and lighting systems would be vulnerable to damage in the 1% annual chance flood with nine inches of sea level rise (2030s). Raising these low areas to meet the surrounding grade would prevent damages in the near-term and make it easier and less costly to further elevate in the future. Additional long-term measures along the park’s waterfront would prevent the park from becoming a flood pathway in a 1% annual chance flood with 36 inches of sea level rise (2070s). The estimated cost for design and construction is $300,000-500,000. This solution could be included as part of the park’s next scheduled renovation, likely by 2025.

Image for Charlestown long-term climate resilient waterfront strategy render

Redevelopment of the Schrafft’s Center waterfront with elevated parks, nature-based features, and mixed-use buildings could bring value to residents, providing new opportunities for recreation, social activities, mobility, and commerce, while also restoring natural resources in the Harbor.

It would also reinforce and extend flood protection provided by elevating Main Street, protecting about 330 residents, at least 60 businesses, drainage and combined sewer systems, first responder facilities, and critical transportation infrastructure, such as Rutherford Avenue and its underpass, from the 1% annual chance coastal flood with nine inches of sea level rise (2030s), plus one foot of freeboard. At this maximum level of protection, from a single event these measures would prevent an estimated $390 million in losses, including over $100 million from Schrafft’s Center itself. The estimated cost for design and construction across the three properties is $28-53 million.

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Long-Term Actions

The long-term actions for Ryan Playground would raise the park’s edge to the 1% annual chance flood level with 36 inches of sea level rise (2070s), plus 1 foot of freeboard. This elevation would be met at the top of a raised pathway with:

  • views of the Lower Mystic River, and
  • integrated seating for viewing the playing fields.

In areas where space is constrained by lighting and dugouts, the pathway would transition to a seating bench that doubles as a flood wall. The existing seawall at the water's edge could be redesigned to provide a more naturalized shoreline. For example, a terraced retaining wall planted with wetland species. The shallow mud flats could be restored to marsh. This would expand the habitat created in the shallow areas of the Schrafft’s Center waterfront. The estimated cost for design and construction of this is $3.7 - 6.1 million.

Full implementation of near- and long-term measures would protect:

  • about 1,000 residents
  • at least 100 businesses
  • drainage and combined sewer systems
  • critical transportation infrastructure, and
  • first responder facilities up to the 1% annual chance flood with 21 inches of sea level rise (2050s), plus one foot of freeboard.

At this maximum level of protection, from a single event these measures would prevent an estimated $591 million in losses.

 

Image for charlestown flood risk axon

The gradations of blue in the map show how the 1% annual chance flood extent changes as sea levels rise. The arrows show the flood entry points and pathways with current sea levels, 9 inches of sea level rise and 36 inches of sea level rise.

 

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Near and long-term coastal resilience solutions in the Charlestown study area.

Implementation Progress

Progress

Led by the Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD), Ryan Playground began preliminary design investigations in fall 2020. Since then, the design of Ryan Playground was developed with input from three community meetings, starting in fall 2021 and culminating in March 2022. With flood resilience as a primary goal, the project aimed to incorporate programmatic elements sought by the community.

The new design will provide flood protection in the form of a large wall built landward of the existing seawall, hidden from park view below a berm. Since elevating sports fields is costly, the flood barrier will be limited to the coastal portion of the park. The berm will create the setting for a new playground with a vantage point overlooking the Mystic River. It will provide the backdrop for viewing the many sports fields in the heart of the park. The project aims to begin construction in spring 2023.

A critical flood pathway in the Charlestown study area leads through a narrow, low-lying section of Main Street before spreading across the community. This section is located in front of the Schrafft’s Center driveway, between Bunker Hill Street and Alford Street.

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) continues to work with the MBTA to include elevating Main Street in the redesign of Sullivan Square to protect residents from sea-level rise and storm surge. Elevating Main Street by an average of two feet in front of the Schrafft’s Center driveway would block the main flood pathway through Charlestown up to a 1% annual chance flood with nine inches of sea level rise (2030s), plus 1 foot of freeboard. This would protect over 250 residents, at least 60 businesses, first responder facilities, and the Rutherford Avenue underpass.

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