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The Case of Cape Ann
2020 -

“As society seeks to facilitate deeper transformations that rewrite societal relationships in everything from environmental sustainability to economic growth, there is an infinite array of risks, uncertainties and opportunities.” – Jesse M. Keenan, 2022

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The future of Cape Ann will be shaped, in large part, by the effects of climate change. These effects will reach well beyond sea level rise and increased storm events. They will ultimately challenge and disrupt the housing, transportation, public services, and economic health of these communities. In light of these challenges, the Office for Urbanization has joined with local organizations — the Cape Ann Climate Coalition, Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation, the City of Gloucester, and the Town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, to begin to envision a sustainable future for the region. In recognition of the reality that Cape Ann’s interwoven ecologies, geographies, and economies transcend municipal boundaries, the scope of the project includes the entire region: Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Essex.

This study includes a range of scales of investigation: territorial, regional, municipal (public infrastructure and public realm), and individual (private ownership). The project identifies unique challenges, opportunities, resources, and recommendations relevant to the City of Gloucester, and Towns of Rockport, Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea. The project recommendations include reference to the relevant local, regional, state, and/or federal resources or agencies implicated in such changes over time. It further identifies recommendations and roles for private citizens, the business community, and civic organizations, among others. These recommendations synthesize the findings of the three areas of investigation and will focus on trade-offs and priorities in relation to the larger menu of possible policy and public realm interventions going forward.

The first year-long effort is comprised of design research and planning “scenarios” organized thematically and pursued through mixed-methods. Two thematic scenarios and two studies provide a synthetic study of issues across disciplines and media, examining the spatial, geographic, ecological, and infrastructural implications of interventions across Cape Ann. These scenarios— including Scenario 0: The Great Storm of 2038, Scenario 1: Near Future Adaptations, Study 2: Net Zero Housing, and Study 3: Waste Recovery — pose sets of questions that represent visions of the future that make it possible to evaluate the potential consequences of different choices. The outcomes of this research are rendered through mapping, modeling, and three-dimensional visualization at the scales of the region, the municipality, and a small subset of specific sites in question.

Project Team: Project Team: Charles Waldheim (PI), Sarah Page, Kira Clingen, Makio Yamamoto, Caroline Brodeur, Oliver Oglesby, Crane Sarris, Celina Abba, Christopher Ball, Phuongminh Nguyen, Aziz Barbar, Fabiana Casale, Charlie Gaillard, Raveena John, Slide Kelly, Angela Moreno-Long, Nono Martinez-Alonso, and Arty Vartanyan

Project Advisors: Jill Desimini, Gareth Doherty, Rosetta Elkin, Andrew Fox, Jerold Kayden, Jesse M. Keenan, David Moreno-Mateos, Rick Peiser, Chris Reed, Maggie Tsang, and

Amy Whitesides.

Project Collaborations: Harvard GSD Critical Landscapes Laboratory, the Woods Hole Group, NOAA, and Limnotech.

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