While it might seem surprising, one of the keys to the success of a public waterfront is where we choose to place our front and back doors. Generally speaking, front doors face the street and the public. The front door is where one meets the postman and watches a passing parade. By contrast, the back door and backyard are private: it is where families have barbeques, swimming pools and store things they don’t want the public to see.

Successful waterfronts have front doors facing the water. Unsuccessful waterfronts have back doors facing the water, creating a built-in conflict between the private residents who don’t want strangers in their back yards and the public seeking to enjoy the river’s edge. There are many examples around the world of outstanding waterfronts that follow this pattern with front doors facing the water, including the Chicago Lakefront; Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janiero; and the Art Deco District in Miami Beach.

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Art Deco District at Miami Beach

The Art Deco District at Miami Beach, an outstanding waterfront, with front doors facing the street and public beach.