Over 10,000 housing units, 27 percent of which are income-restricted approved by the BPDA in 2020
Dec 30, 2020
More than 220 virtual public meetings held in response to COVID-19
The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) Board this year approved over 15.8 million square feet of new development worth more than $8.5 billion and 10,123 residential units, including 2,826 income-restricted units, representing over 27 percent of total units. The new housing units build on the goals identified in Mayor Walsh's "Housing A Changing City: Boston 2030" and further cement Boston's leadership in percentage of income-restricted housing units. This year's Board approved projects will generate over $5.4 million in new Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) funds, over $43.2 million in Linkage fees to support affordable housing, and over $8.5 million in Linkage fees to support job training programs. The development projects approved this year are expected to create approximately 23,287 construction jobs and 12,012 permanent jobs.
Included in the BPDA's approvals is the Suffolk Downs redevelopment project, approved by the BPDA Board in September 2020. The project marks the largest single development project approved by the BPDA Board and the largest single contribution of affordable housing by one development project, and will be constructed over the next two decades.
"Under Mayor Walsh, the City of Boston has been steadfast in its commitment to residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and we recognized that the economic development, job creation, and housing creation that stems from the BPDA's process are especially critical during this time," said Boston Planning & Development Agency Director Brian Golden. "I want to thank Mayor Walsh and the BPDA staff for their unwavering dedication to the community and hard work in making Boston a better place for all."
BPDA COVID-19 Response
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the BPDA paused the public review process for all development projects and planning initiatives in mid-March, allowing the agency to create a plan to transition its community processes to a digital platform in a way that was equitable for all residents.
After months of work by an interagency working group and with support from local community groups and elected officials, in June the BPDA launched a program to resume public meetings virtually for Article 80 development projects and planning initiatives. The interagency working group consisted of City and BPDA employees across departments, and met regularly to develop best practices and test appropriate digital tools to host wide-ranging, engaging, and inclusive conversations with communities.
The BPDA held approximately 331 agency-sponsored meetings for every single Boston neighborhood this year, 223 of which were held virtually. While the BPDA has made strides to create a more inclusive public process over the past several years, the transition to virtual engagement presented an opportunity to increase language access by offering more interpretation and translation services for public meetings. For all virtual public meetings, the BPDA also included ways to participate via phone to provide accessibility for residents without internet access.
The agency's response to the pandemic also included support to the small and large local businesses on BPDA-owned property that fuel Boston's economy and employ hundreds of Boston's residents. The agency first entered into a rent deferment agreement for qualified commercial tenants at BPDA-owned property in April and recently extended the program through June 2021. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the BPDA has provided our $2 million in various forms of relief for qualified tenants at BPDA properties.
These efforts build on the Walsh Administration's ongoing work to support individuals and businesses during this challenging time. In December, Mayor Walsh launched the Financial Navigator Program within the BPDA's Office of Financial Empowerment to help residents access free services that address financial issues brought on by the pandemic.
Furthering Investments in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
This year the BPDA made strategic investments that promote diversity, equity and inclusion. These investments build on the BPDA's progress transforming into a community-led, planning first agency that supports growth that reflects the needs of each neighborhood.
In May, the BPDA Board unanimously voted to elect Priscilla Rojas as Board Chair. Priscilla is the first woman and Latina to hold the position.
The agency appointed Barry Reaves as the first ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In this role, Reaves serves as a member of the agency's senior leadership team is charged with development and oversight of the BPDA's racial equity and diversity priorities, establishing collaborative partnerships with internal and external stakeholders, and fostering a more inclusive, equitable, welcoming, supportive, and diverse agency.
Additionally, the agency created an Equity and Inclusion Fund as part of the BPDA Fiscal Year 2021 budget to fund activities directly related to addressing racial equity and inclusion in the BPDA's work.
Building on its ongoing commitment to create a more user-friendly website experience, BPDA added two new features to its website to address translation and accessibility. A new translation feature is now available in the top right navigation of every page on the agency's website, bostonplans.org. Already implemented on the website is PageAssist by Monsido, a toolbar which gives users control over their website experience through personalized options in font size, colors, and keyboard navigation.
The BPDA also furthered diversity, equity and inclusion requirements in its planning, development, and real estate practices. In August, the agency reissued Request for Proposals (RFPs) for three BPDA-owned properties (Building 108 in the Charlestown Navy Yard, 142 Shawmut Avenue in the South End, and Charlestown Main Street) that had not sufficiently outlined plans for further the agency's mission regarding diversity and inclusion.
Most recently, the BPDA tentatively designated Nubian Square LLC, a diverse development team with roots in the community, to transform the agency-owned Blair Lot parking lot in Roxbury's Nubian Square. The proposal responds to the community vision laid out through the BPDA's planning initiative for the neighborhood, PLAN: Nubian Square. If approved, the project will create a new cultural and economic destination in Boston with a marketplace to support local businesses and artisans, a food hall with an on-site culinary program, and a multipurpose cultural hall and theater. The proposal also meets the BPDA and City of Boston's diversity and inclusion requirements for publicly-owned land to create increased opportunities for people of color, women, and for the participation of Minority Business Enterprises (M/BEs).
Building on Mayor Walsh's overall efforts to address discriminatory housing practices, the BPDA voted to add Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirements to Boston's zoning code. With this vote, Boston is expected to become the first major city in the nation to include fair housing requirements in the zoning code. The requirements will require developers in Boston to take substantial steps to stem displacement and provide further access to housing to those historically discriminated against. The action received unanimous approval from the Boston City Council on December 9, 2020 and is expected to go to the Boston Zoning Commission for a vote in early 2021.
Suffolk Downs Redevelopment
Following the first BPDA Board meeting to be held simultaneously in English, Spanish and Arabic, the BPDA approved the Suffolk Downs Redevelopment, a five-phase development project that will create thousands of jobs, affordable and market-rate housing units, and dramatically improve transportation infrastructure and climate resiliency in East Boston.
The project will create approximately 7,000 residential units, representing 7.31 million square feet, across the Boston portion of the site. The residential units include more than 900 on-site income-restricted units, and an additional $5 million housing stabilization fund to support off-site income-restricted housing, bringing the total commitment of affordable housing to 20 percent of the overall units. The affordable housing that will be created through the project represents the largest contribution of affordable housing created through one single private development project in City of Boston history.
Additional details on the project's job and workforce training support, future flood and climate change protections, transportation infrastructure and open space can be found here.
Implementing Imagine Boston 2030
Under Mayor Walsh, the BPDA is leading an unprecedented number of planning studies, each guided by Imagine Boston 2030 the first city-wide master plan in 50 years aimed at guiding growth. To reinforce these efforts, this year the BPDA named Lauren Shurtleff as the agency's Director of Planning. She will oversee the 29 full-scale and smaller-scale planning studies currently underway.
This year, the BPDA Planning Division also released a draft Allston-Brighton Mobility Plan for community feedback, published an interim report for PLAN: East Boston in English and Spanish, entered into consultant services for the PLAN: Newmarket the 21st Century Economy Initiative to draft a planning document, and, in January 2020, launched the formal public process for PLAN: Charlestown.
Currently, there are neighborhood planning studies moving forward in Charlestown, Downtown, Dorchester's Glover's Corner, East Boston, Mattapan, Newmarket and Allston-Brighton's Western Avenue, and since 2014, planning guidelines have been passed for PLAN: JP/Rox, PLAN: South Boston Dorchester Avenue, and PLAN: Nubian Square. In coordination with City staff, the BPDA is also conducting transportation studies such as the Allston-Brighton Mobility Study, PLAN: South Boston Dorchester Avenue Transportation Study, and South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan, and neighborhood-level climate resiliency planning across the city.
For more information on how to become involved with the BPDA's public process or receive email updates and notifications, please visit: http://www.bostonplans.org/about-us/get-involved.