Ongoing Reforms

A New Approach to Urban Renewal

  • Urban renewal today is a much different tool today than it was during Boston’s past, and the agency exercises these powers in a much more responsible and nuanced manner to assemble parcels of land, clear title to establish clear ownership, establish land use controls for uses such as open space, and promote affordable housing restrictions. Urban renewal tools can be used to redevelop and revitalize parts of Boston’s neighborhoods where development may not otherwise be possible.
  • In 2016, the BPDA’s urban renewal powers were extended and the agency created an action plan to improve the level of transparency and accountability relating to how urban renewal tools are used in Boston. Since then the agency has completed an inventory of all urban renewal parcels and the BPDA now updates City Council on the progress of the action plan every six months.
  • Led by a new project manager, in 2019 the BPDA launched a series of community meetings as an opportunity for the public to learn more about the urban renewal areas in their neighborhood, and provide input on the future of these parcels.
  • Based off of community feedback, these community conversations may lead to certain urban renewal areas being "sunset" if it is determined they have met their economic development purpose.
  • There are also other areas of the City where urban renewal can still be used as an important tool to create economic development that serves the needs of the community, protects long-time residents, and can be used to create open space and protect affordable housing.
  • The Agency has recently utilized Urban Renewal powers to:
    • Allow for 47 rental units, all of which are affordable, to move forward at 597-599 Columbus Avenue in Roxbury; Urban Renewal actions are also allowing the preservation of 97 expiring affordable units at the adjacent Newcastle/Saranac Apartments to move forward.
    • Uphold the use restriction on a North End nursing home, allowing the care facility to remain at this location. Working with the community, a new nursing home operator was able to purchase the property and take over operations for approximately 110 beds.

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