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BRA makes $400,000 in grants available for South Boston organizations in pilot of new community benefits process

Feb 25, 2015

Standard application expected to improve transparency of funding allocations with goal of replicating approach citywide
371-401 D StreetThe Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is piloting a new process for awarding discretionary funds associated with community benefits for large development projects. The program will allow interested and eligible applicants to request a community benefit grant from the BRA by completing a standard application form. The BRA will initially test the new process by releasing $400,000 of the total $630,000 in community benefits that stem from the D Street Hotel project, located at 371-401 D Street in the South Boston Waterfront. The agency ultimately hopes to utilize the same model on a citywide basis if the pilot proves to be successful.
As mandated during the BRA’s review process for large development projects, officials from the agency work with community members and developers to negotiate a benefits agreement to offset the impacts of a proposed project. Community benefits, sometimes referred to as mitigation, often specify particular organizations or programs that will receive support. For example, a developer might agree to fund improvements to a nearby park that the community would like to enhance.
In the past, however, when a benefits agreement included discretionary funds, the process for awarding and allocating this money was unpredictable. Funding opportunities were not always publicized, and there was no formal protocol for releasing funds not tied to a particular organization or program. In an effort to standardize the process, the BRA has developed an application for community benefits that is publicly available.
"This new application process will give the South Boston community equal access and opportunity to grant money resulting from new development in and around their neighborhood," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "I am proud that this process continues our commitment to transparency, accessibility and streamlining city government by modernizing the application process."
“This is another example of our continued commitment to promoting transparency and accountability in all that we do as an organization,” said BRA Director Brian Golden. “South Boston has seen a flurry of exciting development activity in recent years, and it’s important to us that the community as a whole benefits from the positive impacts of these projects.”
The D Street Hotel project is being constructed on land owned by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA). State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Representative Nick Collins, and City Councilors Bill Linehan and Michael Flaherty were instrumental in working with the community, the Mayor’s administration, the MCCA, and the BRA to negotiate the benefits agreement.
“All of the work we are doing on D Street is driven by community impact and engagement at every level – from the D Street hotel project to the Lawn on D to our plans to further enliven D Street with the BCEC Expansion plan’s significant urban design components.” said James E. Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. “We are pleased to have played a role in facilitating the community benefit funding thanks to the generosity of developer, CV Properties, and we are excited about the BRA’s new grant process that allows local nonprofits to propose the best uses for that funding.”
Applications for the D Street community benefits fund pilot program are due April 21, 2015. Local non-profits can request up to $100,000 in funding. The Office of Jobs and Community Services, an affiliate of the BRA with a strong track record in grant management, will help evaluate proposals and make funding recommendations to the BRA’s Board of Directors.
Applicants are expected to develop their own programs and funding priorities, and all submissions will be reviewed according to a set of common criteria that require an applicant to demonstrate the overall neighborhood benefit of a proposal. Proposals must address an urgent need or problem in the community without duplicating existing efforts. If similar programming already exists, applicants must show the need to supplement this work.
Prior to receiving funds, applicants will be required to submit a budget and a plan for how the money will be used in a way that produces a measureable impact. Interested organizations must also demonstrate experience in delivering the service or program for which they seek funding. Successful applicants will be required to provide a written summary of accomplishments as a result of the grant to help the BRA evaluate the performance of funding recipients, which was not done in the past.
The BRA hopes to release similar applications for community benefits associated with other development projects throughout the city based on the success of the South Boston pilot program.

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