Cities increasingly plan for and respond to catastrophes. Investments in climate change adaptation are inherently expensive, uncertain, and long-term. This poses a challenge for determining the optimal resiliency expenditure (ORE). This paper argues urban districts are the appropriate decision making unit (DMU) of analysis, planning, and intervention to formulate resilient strategies. The working concept of “resilient districts” for urban areas vulnerable to coastal flooding and climate impacts is critiqued and explored with two case studies in the US Northeast – one in response to Hurricane Sandy in the New Jersey Meadowlands from the Rebuild By Design (RBD) competition and another in anticipation of a similar storm surge event in metropolitan Boston, Massachusetts. The research concludes with a generalizable urban design framework of protecting critical infrastructure, thickening regional soft systems, transferring density to less vulnerable areas, and encouraging landscape-based land uses.
This work, “Theorizing the Resilient District: Design-Based Decision Making for Urban Coastal Climate Change Adaptation” was presented at the 2017 American Association of Geographers conference in Boston, MA and a manuscript is currently under peer review.