A team of Florida college students is developing a plan to protect Nantucket’s historic district from sea level rise, storm surge, and tidal flooding.
During a virtual presentation on Wednesday, the group from the University of Florida Historic Preservation Program shared recommendations for how to adapt the South Washington Street area, which scientists expect to be regularly under water by 2060.
“Historic preservation is not about freezing things in time,” said Marty Hylton, director of the program. “It’s about managing change and doing it in a way that engages stakeholders and really helps understand the values associated with a place.”
The study area for the adaptation project includes 180 buildings, 4,000 feet of shoreline, and property valued at more than $315 million.
In the coming decades, Hylton and his team recommended, the town should consider elevating municipal buildings, working with private businesses on adaptation plans, and developing a living shoreline—to establish a natural and stable coastal edge rather than build a concrete seawall—in the harbor.
“I think it’s going to involve obviously native vegetation like eel grass. It could also include oyster farms,” he said. “But I think this is just … in terms of ultimately what it looks like, this is just the beginning.”
Another adaptation option, he said, could be replacing a vulnerable, low-lying municipal parking lot with an affordable-housing project with flood-ready infrastructure.
The team will now work with the town to refine its recommendations before a final report is released around January 1, 2021.
The alternatve to action, Hylton warned, is a dramatically diminished historic Nantucket : “A lot of the buildings in our study area, if they’re not elevated, they’re going away.”