2017 AIA Awards – Regional & Urban Design
An innovative solution to issues that arise when contemporary waterfront development collides with regulations aimed at protecting marine industrial uses, this project balances industry, recreation, and wildlife habitat.
Embracing a both/and ethos rather than a conventional either/or development pattern, Rock Chapel Marine is the redevelopment of a shuttered oil terminal into a road salt transshipment facility and waterfront park in a community attuned to issues of environmental justice. Located in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a densely packed pocket of industry and residences in Boston Harbor, the project has brought much-needed green space in the form of the first park in decades on the town’s working waterfront.
To intertwine industrial operations with the life of the city, Rock Chapel Marine capitalizes on the seasonal nature of the road salt industry. In summer, when the industry is less active, the park area is increased, while in winter the shared space reverts to industrial use.
Developed privately and operated by the Eastern Salt Company in conjunction with community groups and local officials, the development of Rock Chapel Marine involved untangling conflicts between state and local regulations which required several years of outreach and coordinated planning efforts led by the design team. The process resulted not only in improvements to the project but also the birth of a memorandum of agreement between city and industry that details best practices for improving industrial operations in an urban context.
The site, historically a filled tideland occupied for more than 50 years by massive oil tanks, required clean soil and paving to protect it from the decades of industrial use. Native plant cover and hundreds of new trees were introduced in both the park and industrial areas, while vine plantings cover street-facing fencing in the industrial zone and provide a living screen as an alternative to typical fencing.
By harnessing design of industry, a domain not regularly found in the portfolio of architects and urban designers, Rock Chapel Marine represents a new form of deep engagement between community and industry.