North Bank Bridge Park: Reclaiming a Post Industrial Riverfront

Charlestown and Cambridge, MA, United States / CRJA-IBI Group


The North Bank Bridge Park project reclaims a derelict underbridge space overwhelmed by vestigial industry, highway ramps, and the looming Zakim Bridge and transforms it into a safe, vibrant, welcoming, aesthetically pleasing and fun Underbridge Plaza that gently tames its gritty urban character while still honoring it. It is the last park built within the New Charles River Basin, a formerly inaccessible portion of the Charles River on both the north and south banks, referred to as “The Lost Half Mile.” The North Bank Bridge Park created the first river-edge connection between the Charles River and the Boston Harbor, finally fulfilling a century-old vision of Charles Elliot, and old protégé of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.

A key feature of the Park is the Underbridge Plaza, an unexpected urban outdoor room that borders on the Charles River with the Zakim Bridge as its roof, creating a new kind of urban public space which responds directly to the urban industrial context and the sleek monumentality of the Zakim Bridge. 

The North Bank Bridge, the project’s sculptural centerpiece, spans a rail corridor, among other obstacles, to create vital pedestrian and bicycle connections between Cambridge and Charlestown. CRJA-IBI Group worked with the bridge designer to develop the bridge’s S-curve alignment as an extension of the approaching park pathways.

Sustainable measures included the use of native riverbank planting, reclaimed granite seawall blocks, reclaimed granite cobblestones, and the removal and capping of various on-site contaminated materials.

The planning and design for the North Bank Bridge Park, which took nearly a decade, was guided by the overriding conviction that the public would one day be thrilled to come into this new realm, to see the city from a new vantage point, and to appreciate the unique experience of being up close with the colossal Zakim Bridge structure.

Website Menu