Mayor Wu speaking at the 2023 State of the City event

January 23, 2023—Mayor Michelle Wu delivers remarks during the 2023 State of the City Address at the MGM Music Hall.
Photo credit: Mayor's Office photo by Isabel Leon

In this moment of need, we have an opportunity and an obligation to change how we plan for Boston’s future. We’re charting a new course for growth, with people as our compass.

Mayor Wu, State of the City

Goals

Our vision is to shape growth that serves Boston’s residents and centers their needs. Our mission is to address our City’s greatest challenges: resilience, affordability, and equity, and we will take real estate actions and prioritize planning, development, and urban design solutions that further these priorities. Restoring planning as a core function of city government and integrating our work with other City departments will ensure a coordinated, comprehensive vision for Boston. We seek to build trust with communities through transparent processes that embrace predictable growth.

Address today's challenges; lead with planning; build trust with communities; and embrace growth while creating a predictable process.

This website page outlines the changes that Mayor Wu has proposed for the BPDA. For regular updates on implementation of the changes that Mayor Wu has proposed for the BPDA, sign up for our News & Updates.

Implementation

In terms of implementation, there are three categories that these changes fall into: First, work that we already have the ability to complete, and that Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison is overseeing, which we categorize as a new direction for planning and development. Second, updating our legal charter and ending Urban Renewal, which has been approved by the City Council and will next go to the State House. Third, moving staff from BPDA employment to the City of Boston while creating a new planning and design department on the city side.

  • New direction for planning and development
    • Planning for growth and the future through neighborhood and citywide initiatives, including Design Vision
    • Updating and modernizing our zoning code
    • Making development more predictable for both communities and developers
    • Ensuring public land for public good - focusing on resilience and affordability
    • Creating a Planning Advisory Council responsible for coordinating planning efforts across all City departments
  • New mission for our work
    • A new charter that establishes our mission as addressing Boston’s challenges today: Resilience, Affordability, and Equity
    • Legally ending Urban Renewal and modernizing the use of real estate tools to further Resilience, Affordability, and Equity
  • Improving coordination
    • Creating a new City department of planning and design to receive staff

Timeline

Much of this work has started, and there will be many opportunities for you to share your input:

  • Already completed or underway
    • Filed Home Rule Petition to end urban renewal and allow the BPDA to use real estate tools for resilience, affordability, and equity. The Home Rule Petition has been approved by the City Council and has been sent to the State House for approval
    • Filed series of executive orders to establish a new mission for the BPDA focused on resilience, affordability, and equity, speed up affordable housing, and improve citywide coordination
    • Started efforts to shape a City of Boston Design Vision. This Spring we started community engagement to co-create a design vision with the communities of Boston to articulate a people-centric vision that will guide how the spaces and physical characteristics support and reflect Boston
  • Upcoming
    • Starting Article 80 improvement this summer. We’ll be working with Boston residents to help us create a new community engagement process to review developments
    • Establishing Planning Advisory Council to coordinate all City agencies that govern the built environment and ensure a comprehensive vision
    • Moving staff to become a City agency
    • Kicking-off efforts to update zoning code through citywide planning initiatives

Stay Up To Date & Learn More

Staff will be holding office hours through the month of June to provide an opportunity for you to speak with us directly and ask questions.

Wed

07

Jun

Mayor Wu's Vision for the BPDA Office Hours 12:00 PM - 02:00 PM

LOCATION: City Hall Plaza
1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02114

View Details

Wed

14

Jun

Mayor Wu's Vision for the BPDA Office Hours 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM

LOCATION: Brighton Farmer’s Market - Brighton Common
30 Chestnut Hill Avenue
Brighton, MA 02135

View Details

Tue

20

Jun

Mayor Wu's Vision for the BPDA Office Hours 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

LOCATION: Virtual Meeting

View Details

Sun

25

Jun

Mayor Wu's Vision for the BPDA Office Hours 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM

LOCATION: Open Streets Boston - Jamaica Plain
Centre Street
Between: Lamartine Street to South Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

View Details

Want to stay updated about upcoming steps in this process? Sign up for News & Updates: the BPDA’s weekly newsletter about Citywide initiatives, upcoming meetings, and agency news, including our progress toward this vision for change and opportunities to be part of shaping the future of Boston.

And sign up for Neighborhood-specific mailing lists for updates on projects and planning in your neighborhood and opportunities to get involved.


Q&A

Here are answers to the most common questions we receive about our vision for the BPDA.

Do you have questions that haven’t yet been answered? Share your question(s) here or email us at [email protected].

Are planning and development activities pausing while we do this work?

  • No, all underway planning, urban design, real estate, and development work is continuing.

What is Mayor Wu trying to accomplish with these changes?

  • Our vision is to shape growth that serves Boston’s residents and centers their needs. Our mission is to address our City’s greatest challenges: resilience, affordability, and equity, and we will take real estate actions and prioritize planning, development, and urban design solutions that further these priorities. Restoring planning as a core function of city government and integrating our work with other City departments will ensure a coordinated, comprehensive vision for Boston. We seek to build trust with communities through transparent processes that embrace predictable growth.

If these proposals aren’t approved by the legislature, will transformation still happen?

  • Our vision for growth—including planning, zoning, and development that prioritize resilience, affordability, and equity—do not need legislative approval. That work is within the scope of the Chief of Planning and is already underway.
  • The Home Rule Petition to end Urban Renewal and allow the BPDA to use real estate tools for resilience, affordability, and equity was approved by the City Council and will need to be approved by the State House. Whether or not it is approved by the State House will not impact our vision for planning, design, real estate, and development work that is already being completed. Urban Renewal plan areas in Boston will expire in 2025 and if the Home Rule Petition does not pass a new plan for addressing this expiration will need to be created.

How will the planning process change?

  • The creation of a City Planning and Design Department will restore planning as a core function of City government.
  • The establishment of a Planning Advisory Council will ensure that every department that plays a role in shaping the built environment of the City or oversees the City’s finances will have a seat at the table and a voice during planning processes. It will ensure that City planning is coordinated and comprehensive.
  • The Planning team will be growing to do more comprehensive citywide planning and will also begin staffing development projects with dedicated planners. This will give us the resources necessary to complete long-term plans in a timely manner, while also ensuring development project approvals are tied to long-term plans.

Is Urban Renewal going to end? If so, is anything being lost?

  • Yes, when the home rule petition passes, Urban Renewal will effectively end in Boston. This is being done in a way to ensure no public value is lost as urban renewal sunsets.
  • The home rule petition allows the BPDA to continue to enforce protections for affordable housing, open space restrictions, and community use requirements that benefit Boston residents.
  • In addition, the home rule petition proposes replacing the public sector real estate development tools (like the ability to buy and sell property) so that they are no longer tied to blight, decadence and substandard housing, but are instead to be used for affordability, resilience, and equity. This will allow the BPDA’s real estate tools to advance affordable housing creation, open space expansion, sea wall construction, heat island mitigation, small business incubation, arts expansion, and other community development goals.

Resources