Waterfront development | Background, Need & Example

Do you know what makes Venice, Sydney, Montreal, and Rotterdam similar? Each of these cities is essentially a huge waterfront, there development is known as waterfront development. As a matter of fact, some of the biggest cities and most popular tourist destinations reside on beautiful and highly functional waterfronts.

The whole concept is extremely important given the fact that human civilization has always been dependent on rivers, seas, and oceans. For instance, nearly half of the population of the United States – 153 million people in particular – lives along the nation’s 95,331 miles of ocean and Great Lakes coast.

Waterfront Development

So, what is a waterfront?

By definition, it is a part of a town that is next to an area of water such as a river or the sea. Although it sounds simple, waterfronts are actually complex and demand a fair share of planning and strategic thinking. In this post, we will explain to you the basics of waterfront development.

Why go for Waterfront Development ?

The first precondition for building a waterfront is obvious – you need to reside in a coastal zone. Everything other than that is subject to analysis and multiple interpretations because the waterfront development is extremely challenging.

Jake Gardner, an engineer and a blogger, says there can be no general principle on how to construct a waterfront because almost every place differs by a variety of social and environmental factors: “You have to take into account the impact of climate, local communities, local landscape, and many other details to design a compact waterfront.”

However, we can name a few factors that strongly contribute to the development and/or revitalization of waterfronts all over the world:

  • Available land: It is almost impossible to build a waterfront in coastal areas with no flat land to support the construction.
  • Environmental regulations: Waterfronts have to be neat and clean, which is perfect for environmentalists who promote eco-friendly development.
  • Historic preservation: There are also lots of local groups that demand the historic preservation of the landscape, so the only solution is to rebuild waterfronts and make them resemble the original.
  • Urban revitalization: Of course, one of the main reasons to (re)build waterfronts is to revitalize urban areas and make cities more comfortable.

A typical waterfront is a complex system that encompasses many different elements, including marinas, boats, promenades, docks, transportation networks, commercial, and private real estate. In such circumstances, it’s not surprising to learn that all sorts of stakeholders contribute to and influence the decision to build a new waterfront.

The main players include the authorities (national, local, and development agencies), the general public (experts and local residents), private stakeholders (land owners, investors, etc.) and professional staff such as architects, construction engineers, and marina operators.

Also Read: Riverfront Development | Background, Use & Example

4 Waterfront Use-Cases

Waterfronts are highly versatile in nature, which means they can fulfill many different purposes. Local authorities sometimes choose to build it for one particular reason, while some other times they want to give waterfronts multiple functions simultaneously.

The latter is where they need to be extra cautious because different features may be too contrasting to function properly one next to another. This issue is also a subject to strategic thinking, but we don’t want to bother with it too much, so let’s discuss the four most common use-cases of a waterfront.

  • Commercial: A waterfront can be a popular place for businesses of all types and sizes. This is why you will often see a waterfront built for commercial purposes.
  • Industrial: Another solution is to design a waterfront that helps various industries to ship their products simply and effortlessly all over the globe.
  • Residential: Of course, people build waterfronts for residential use as well. Just imagine how cool it would be to have a place in the St Tropez or Cannes waterfront?
  • Recreational: The fourth function goes hand in hand with the previous one. Namely, waterfront residents need a place to recreate and a local promenade seems like an ideal solution in most cases.

Building a multifunctional waterfront sounds like a dream come true, but it’s not so easy to combine the four features and design an all-encompassing system. In order to achieve this feat, there has to be flawless cooperation between urban designers, politicians, and investors. Besides that, some other preconditions have to be taken care of:

  • A mutual understanding between local residents and investors who have commercial plans.
  • Professional planners and construction agencies with expertise to design such a demanding project.
  • No ownership issues or barriers.
  • A feasible financial plan that can function in the long run.
  • Full transparency among stakeholders.
  • A plan to rearrange and preserve the existing urban concept along with the corresponding infrastructure.

The Results of Developing a Sustainable Waterfront

If you already have everything worked out and prepared for the execution, then you should know the usual steps that lead to the waterfront development. It’s a multistage process that looks like this: Idea → Analysis → Concept & Planning → Design & Engineering → Permits & Approval → Realization → Evaluation.

Now, what do you get from it in the end? The list of results is impressive:

  • A place to live, work, and enjoy leisure time activities
  • A contribution to urban development
  • A big economy booster in the neighborhood
  • A natural and ecological restoration
  • A revitalization of long-forgotten features
  • Flood prevention
  • Building a brand new identity of the city
  • New means and routes of transport
  • Riverbed restoration

With all the benefits we stated above, it is clear why so many cities worldwide decide to take advantage of their water areas and build or reconstruct their waterfronts.


The entire human civilization is closely related to water areas such as the seas, rivers, and oceans because it enables simpler transportation of people and goods. This is exactly what makes waterfronts one of the key concepts of urban development.

Author Bio: Author Bio: Tiffany Harper is a talented writer from New York, an extremely active woman, and a real leader. She began her career as a journalist and later proceeded it as an educational writer and editor. Now Tiffany works as the outbound specialist with assignment writing service uk and academized reviews, trying to help to develop their content strategy. Please do not hesitate to contact her on Twitter.