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Redeveloping Deteriorated Urban Waterfronts: The Effectiveness of U.S. Coastal Management Programs

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This article documents the progress U.S. coastal states have made in assisting communities undertaking the national goal of redeveloping their deteriorated waterfronts since passage of the 1980 amendments to the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). Over 300 urban waterfront districts nationwide have benefited from the 25 state and territorial coastal management programs (CMPs) for which there are substantially complete outcome data. The most active states are in the Great Lakes, Pacific Coast, and North Atlantic regions; there is less activity in the Southeast and Gulf states, where two states' programs concluded that waterfront revitalization was not an issue they needed to address. "On-the-ground" outcome indicators were designed to score three dimensions of revitalization: the extent of revitalization occurring in a state, the stage of revitalization achieved in each waterfront district, and the scope of waterfront improvements, programs, and activities realized. In order to demonstrate coastal zone management's (CZM's) niche role in what is otherwise the business of cities, we documented the linkage between a state CMP's policies and on-the-ground outcomes through the use of CZM tools and processes in specific waterfront districts. To assess effectiveness, we determined the degree to which each state approaches an "ideal" waterfront revitalization program, both on paper and on the ground. While not all states have utilized the full suite of tools available to assist communities to revitalize their deteriorated waterfronts, there are three strategies used by the 14 most effective states: seven states sought partnerships with local communities by actively promoting their financial and technical assistance programs; three states undertook an inventory of their coastal communities and targeted specific deteriorated or underutilized urban waterfronts and ports for revitalization; and, two states delegated to networked specialized agencies the responsibility for urban waterfront revitalization. For 11 states, there are insufficient on-the-ground data to support an unambiguous effectiveness finding.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 1999

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