Director Brian Golden: Neighborhood planning key to development in Boston
Jan 07, 2020
The following opinion piece originally ran on Boston.com on Tuesday, January 7, 2020.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen tremendous transformation across Boston’s neighborhoods as the city has become an increasingly attractive place for people to live and work. We estimate that Boston’s population will reach almost 760,000 people in the next decade. While that growth holds great promise to improve the quality of life for all Bostonians by investing in our neighborhoods and creating new jobs and opportunities, it is critical that growth is well planned and inclusive, addresses our city’s challenges, and reaches our neighborhoods equitably.
As we enter 2020, we are only 10 years away from Boston’s 400th birthday. That’s why every single day we are actively working to implement the vision thousands of Bostonians helped create through Imagine Boston 2030. Imagine Boston 2030 lays out a plan for us to make Boston more affordable, connected, and resilient by our quatercentenary.
Under the leadership of Mayor Walsh and in response to the population growth and development pressure across Boston, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) embarked on a new approach to neighborhood planning in 2014 that relies on innovative community engagement and reflects a shared ownership in our collective future. Our neighborhood planning studies allow Boston’s planners to ask residents what they would like to see in their neighborhoods, helping us determine how to guide growth and investment.
We will continue to leverage Boston’s strong development market to create more opportunities for Boston’s residents. New development projects approved in 2019 will generate over $21 million in linkage payments in the coming years to support affordable housing and job training. Linkage provides the resources to expand programs like Mayor Walsh’s Tuition Free Community College program and support community-based organizations that provide Boston residents with job training skills that enable them to enter career pathways and obtain higher paying jobs.
Comprehensive neighborhood planning efforts will be central to the next 10 years, and community engagement will continue in East Boston, Mattapan, Glover’s Corner, Downtown, Newmarket, Allston-Brighton, and Charlestown, and, as recently completed studies are implemented, in Dorchester Avenue in South Boston, Nubian Square (formerly known as Dudley Square), and the Washington Street corridor in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. As we enter the next decade, this community-based planning will help shape future growth so that it fits within the context of our neighborhoods and benefits our residents.
As sea level rises, summers get hotter, and storms get stronger, Boston must continue to lead in preparing for and responding to climate change. Through Mayor Walsh’s Resilient Boston Harbor plan, the years ahead will bring the build out of resilient, accessible open spaces on our waterfront and climate-ready buildings and infrastructure. Mayor Walsh has committed 10 percent of Boston’s capital budget moving forward towards resiliency investments. Projects along our waterfront will protect our residential fabric and most vulnerable neighborhoods for generations to come. We will continue to create strong partnerships with the state, federal government, development community, and advocates to work together to find new and innovative solutions to meet Boston’s challenges as a waterfront city.
Creating a reliable, affordable and safe regional transit network while reducing congestion on roadways is critical to supporting our workforce and fostering a productive economy. The MBTA — run by the state, not the city of Boston — needs additional investment in order to meet the demands of our region’s growth. Through Go Boston 2030, the city of Boston is doing its part to invest in a 21st century transportation network. Dedicated bus lanes have been successfully implemented in Roslindale, the West End, Sullivan Square, near South Station, and Allston, and the city is now focused on the South Boston Waterfront, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and Downtown.
Rapid bus transit is helping thousands of people get to work and home faster. Protected bike lanes will continue expanding throughout Boston’s neighborhoods. Comprehensive, community-based mobility studies are underway in Allston-Brighton and the South Boston Waterfront/Seaport. Mayor Walsh’s FY20-24 $2.78 billion Capital Plan earmarks $1.15 billion for transportation investments.The next decade will see a rebuilt, pedestrian-oriented Northern Avenue Bridge that is climate resilient and preserves the history of the bridge.
Finally, in order to accommodate Boston’s growing population, we must continue to work towards our goal of creating 69,000 new homes for a range of income-levels by 2030. In 2019, the BPDA approved nearly 5,000 new residential units, and almost a quarter of them will be income-restricted. With over 30,000 new units permitted under our housing plan, including over 6,000 income-restricted units, Boston is on track to meet this challenge, but housing isn’t just a Boston issue. Building housing that is affordable to our workforce, our families, our recent graduates, and our elderly is an issue that the entire region must work together to address. In Boston we will continue to urge our neighboring municipalities to increase production of housing that will meet the needs of our residents.
If we spend the next decade working together to guide Boston’s growth and transformation so that it is inclusive, we will achieve our goals of creating an equitable Boston for all. Please visit our website bostonplans.org, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram @BostonPlans to learn more and get involved to help guide the future of your neighborhood.
Brian Golden joined the Boston Planning & Development Agency in 2008 and has served as Director since 2014. Golden is an alum of Boston Latin School is a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he represented the Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston. He also formerly served as the New England Regional Director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.