A port city’s economy has historically depended upon its ability to adapt its port to political, economic, social, and technological changes. After the 1960s, many working ports adapted to containerisation by moving away from outdated infrastructure; public and private entities in some cities redeveloped these empty, centrally located historic waterfronts for corporate use, housing, entertainment, and cruise ship tourism. The article discusses such adaptation and transformation (or the lack thereof) in London, Tokyo, Hamburg and Philadelphia, examines these ports as places of economic resilience and innovation – and, traditionally, sites of the creation of wealth for the local elite. It also evaluates today’s relationship between working ports and waterfronts. Raising questions about preservation, green urbanism and livability, it addresses these cities’ efforts to establish themselves as creators of resilient urban systems that promote prosperity (as defined by UN Habitat) for all citizens.
Keywords: port cities, waterfront revitalisation, built environment, urban wealth, UN Habitat, sustainable cities, transition to sustainability, urban history, cruise ships