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Urban revivals: On the waterfront

The Economist: United States
May 30, 2013
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“WHEN I was a kid in the 70s, this stunk,” says Jim Rooney of the Boston Convention Centre, talking about South Boston’s waterfront, where his huge centre stands. “Rotten eggy smell, things floating around, couldn’t see through it. Nasty water.” Furthermore, the area—1,000 acres of it, or 400 hectares—was cut off from the rest of the city by an elevated highway. It had poor public transport and few roads. Once it boasted railway yards and docks where “Southies” (who lived nearby) worked as longshoremen. But many of the seafront jobs left long ago. The tracks were covered by a sea of asphalt. Warehouses lay empty and the place became an enormous car park.Some could see potential. John Drew, a waterfront pioneer, built Boston’s Seaport World Trade Centre there, besides a clutch of fancy hotels. “It was like we were in Peru,” remembers Mr Drew, though it was a mere ten-minute walk from the Financial District. But the 15-year “Big Dig” (which, among much else, re-routed Interstate 93 at vast expense into a tunnel under the city centre) allowed Boston to reconnect with its waterfront. The harbour is no longer polluted; a $3.5 billion clean-up began in 1985. The Silver Line, which serves the airport, was extended that way, and main roads now connect the waterfront to both city and suburbs.A federal courthouse moved there from the Financial District in 1999. Law firms followed....



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