San Juan, Puerto Rico

Bahía Urbana

Repositioning San Juan’s Historic Industrial Port

status

Phase 1 Completed 2013

client

Forest City Development + The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

expertise

Public Realm + Open Space, Hospitality + Entertainment

services

Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, Master Planning

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Connecting Downtown to the Waterfront

Attracting residents, businesses, and tourists, this urban waterfront redevelopment returns 1.5 miles of waterfront to the people of San Juan.

Bahía Urbana is an expansive, 100-acre redevelopment of vacant port facilities and waterfront properties situated in the historic Isleta de San Juan in Puerto Rico. Envisioned as a catalyst for new investment throughout San Juan, Bahía Urbana is a public-private partnership between the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and Forest City Development, bringing a diverse mix of uses, pedestrian-oriented public space, and greater connectivity along the San Juan waterfront. The significant public investment, both financial and energy, brought incredibly high expectation for a celebration of culture and identity for the island.

The Bahía Urbana master plan extends the urban character that defines Old San Juan to the Convention Center District by creating an urban street framework and a continuous public promenade along the San Antonio Canal. The promenade will weave together a unique fabric of vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, featuring commercial, residential, hospitality, and civic uses. As the point of entry for visitors arriving to San Juan by cruise ship, Bahía Urbana acts as a first impression for this popular tourist destination.

Phase One: Complete

The first phase of development included the renovation and reconstruction of three piers closest to the San Juan Cruise Port Terminal into a waterfront public venue.

Our Vision

Provide Continuous Access Along the Waterfront With a Public Promenade

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A key component of Bahía Urbana is a pedestrian promenade that will span the length of the development, resulting in 1.5 miles of continuous, publicly accessible waterfront on land that was previously inaccessible due to commercial maritime operations. A series of new public spaces, parks, and urban plazas will form a compelling pedestrian corridor that draws both residents and tourists to the region while improving connectivity between Old San Juan and the mainland.

The promenade starts both visually and materially at a majestic pedestrian bridge linking the existing cruise ship terminal with the development to the east. Connectivity and access are key components of the design, with increased foot traffic encouraged by tree-lined sidewalks, custom streetscape furniture, adequate lighting, and active public spaces. Dotted along the corridor are cafes, areas for play, fountains, shade pavilions, attractions, and event spaces.

The Challenge

Collaborating Across Cultures

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To ensure the project would be embraced by the people of San Juan, this project required a meaningful collaboration with local experts, such as the Puerto Rico Ports Authority. By actively listening to client needs, respecting local construction knowledge, and adapting to changes in community priorities, the design team was able to gain an understanding of how the public realm would ultimately be used by the people of San Juan.

Additionally, as an urban waterfront project, the design team had to explore and execute a variety of security and climate considerations, including theft, misuse, saltwater maintenance, and hurricane conditions.

Our Approach

A Connected Urban Waterfront

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Physical

Extend the urban block pattern that defines San Juan, enhancing the visual connection to the waterfront and resolving the lack of public open space and water access. Replace aging port infrastructure to support new mixed use development and walkable east-west connections

Functional

Catalyze new investment throughout San Juan by cultivating activity, vitality, and connectivity between Old San Juan and the mainland

Social

Craft an urban presence unique to San Juan, creating an inviting gathering space to attract both residents and visitors

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Physical

Extend the urban block pattern that defines San Juan, enhancing the visual connection to the waterfront and resolving the lack of public open space and water access. Replace aging port infrastructure to support new mixed use development and walkable east-west connections

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Functional

Catalyze new investment throughout San Juan by cultivating activity, vitality, and connectivity between Old San Juan and the mainland

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Social

Craft an urban presence unique to San Juan, creating an inviting gathering space to attract both residents and visitors

Celebrating San Juan

Intended to be a celebration of San Juan, the design of the pedestrian promenade required a deep understanding of the region’s culture and history. Materiality, form, public art, and plantings work together to celebrate the past in a fresh, contemporary way.

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A Nod to Industrial History

Wheeled wooden platform seating along a former rail line is a playful nod the port’s industrial history and the movement of goods along the corridor, while an amphitheater provides opportunity for reflection and celebration.

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