Download the full presentation

Jill Valdes Horwood

Director of Policy | Boston Harbor Now, USA

Ripple Effect Of Boston’s Bulding Boom

Boston Harbor is recognized nationally as a unique maritime resource with distinct physical, geographical, and active uses. With a rich and evolving maritime heritage, the Harbor continues to support diverse waterfront activities. As the City of Boston increases in density, the demands for waterfront land exacerbates the challenges of balancing these uses.
In 1978, before major public waterfront investments triggered a commercial and residential building boom, the State of Massachusetts created the Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and established the Designated Port Area (DPA) program. By enacting DPA policy at a pivotal moment in Boston’s waterfront history, the State recognized that coastal areas capable of supporting maritime industrial uses are a finite and shrinking resource requiring special protection to prevent their loss and the infrastructure necessary to support the maritime industry. These protected areas were intended to preserve water-dependent industrial uses, promote blue-collar jobs, and maintain a healthy and diversified waterfront economy.
Over four decades, Boston’s waterfront has been transformed by the Boston Harbor cleanup (a $3 billion environmental clean-up effort), the Central Artery Tunnel project (the most expensive transportation project in U.S. history), and billions of dollars in new public and private development driven by global economic and political forces. Boston and its port are, once again, at a pivotal point.
Since its inception in the mid 1600s, the port of Boston has always been in flux. Our waterfront has undergone many evolutions, each with its own challenges and opportunities. Today, the City continues to struggle to strike the right balance between preserving traditional maritime uses and allowing the kind of flexibility needed to sustain a booming maritime economy and keep up with the pace of waterfront development.
Port cities around the globe are transitioning toward new innovation-oriented maritime industries and expanding regulatory definitions to include mixed-use development and increase public spaces. To become a 21st century harbor, Boston is actively seeking answers: What strategies should Boston collectively employ to ensure that the non-water dependent uses boom our waterfront enjoys does not permanently displace water- dependent maritime businesses? What are regional and global maritime trends that Boston Harbor can capitalize on? How can Boston make the most of its world-renowned education institutions to create long- term connections between the maritime and knowledge economies to increase job opportunities? How can our working waterfront be more climate resilient and protect the public and private investment?


Jill Valdés Horwood, JD, LLM, is Director of Policy for Boston Harbor Now – a Boston-based non-profit organization that stewards the vision for a healthy and connected Boston Harbor, waterfront and islands. In her role, Jill serves as lead policy expert and is responsible for actively commenting on a broad range of current and proposed waterfront development projects and policies. Jill is also responsible for coordinating strategy efforts with city and state agencies like the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Massport, and the Boston Planning and Development Agency. As policy director, she works closely with local environmental nonprofits, staffs Boston Harbor Now’s Board Harbor Policy and Planning Committee, and organizes monthly Harbor Use Forums to educate and inform the public of key and timely waterfront related topics. She is the author of Boston’s Working Port: A Foundation for Innovation–a report that highlights Boston’s current and future maritime trends, existing economic pressures, and the effects of increasing waterfront development and density.
As a Florida native, Jill has always had an affinity for the ocean and coast. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Maritime Law from the University of Miami and a Juris Doctor with a focus on Public Interest Law from DePaul University College of Law. Jill served as the first Cuban-American Boston Conservation Commissioner, is co-chair for both the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association Gala and the Massachussets Women’s Bar Foundation Comedy Night, and enjoys volunteering her weekends to causes that are near to her heart.