BPDA approves more than 6,000 units of new housing in 2021, with over 35 percent designated income-restricted
Dec 30, 2021
This year, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) approved 14.6 million square feet of new development worth $7 billion. This includes 6,643 residential units, of which 2,343, or 35 percent, will be income-restricted. Development projects approved this year are estimated to generate 13,474 construction jobs and 11,755 permanent jobs. This year's Board approved projects will generate over $9,610,000 in new Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) funds, over $31,810,976 in Linkage fees to support affordable housing, and over $6,109,360 in Linkage fees to support job training programs.
The BPDA held approximately 360 agency-sponsored meetings across every single Boston neighborhood this year, all of which were held virtually. More than 14,000 people are estimated to have participated in these public meetings, and Roxbury was the neighborhood with the highest engagement. The BPDA has made strides to create a more inclusive public process over the past several years, and 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.
As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting development that is informed by community-led planning, the BPDA is leading an unprecedented number of planning initiatives. Neighborhood planning studies are moving forward in Charlestown, Downtown, Dorchester’s Glover’s Corner, Mattapan, Newmarket and East Boston, and the Western Ave Corridor and planning guidelines have been passed for PLAN: JP/Rox, PLAN: South Boston Dorchester Avenue, and PLAN: Nubian Square. The South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan is identifying specific mobility recommendations.
Language Access Policy
In order to promote a more inclusive public process throughout the BPDA’s work, in 2021 the agency adopted a Language Access Plan (LAP) outlining the steps required to ensure that persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) have meaningful access to development and planning work in their neighborhood. LEP individuals are those who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English.
In line with the BPDA’s mission to give all local residents a voice in what goes on in their communities, the agency continues to work to remove language barriers. Language access has made it easier for residents to provide feedback during public hearings and engagements. Going forward, improvements to language access will continue to increase the turnout and participation of LEP residents.
Boston becomes first city in the nation to add fair housing requirements to zoning code
Building on the BPDA’s overall efforts to address discriminatory housing practices, the BPDA adopted Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) requirements in 2021, making Boston the first major city in the nation to include fair housing requirements in its zoning code. These requirements require developers in Boston to take substantial steps to stem displacement and provide further access to housing to those historically discriminated against. At the end of this year, 16 large projects are under review and subject to AFFH requirements.
Support for Affordable Housing, Workforce Training
Boston continues to leverage development to support affordable housing and workforce training. In March 2021, a 42 percent increase in Boston’s Linkage fees was signed into law. The Linkage Program requires large scale commercial developments over 100,000 square feet in Boston to pay into funds that support the creation of affordable housing and workforce development. The increase raised the fees to $15.39 per square foot, of which $13.00 will be dedicated to affordable housing and $2.39 will be dedicated to workforce training.
Implementing PLAN: Nubian Square - Advancing development that creates jobs, increases housing supply, and directly invests in communities of color
In February of 2016, the BPDA launched PLAN: Nubian Square to update the framework for new development in Roxbury as part of an enhanced Roxbury Strategic Master Plan, and guide the RFPs for nine underutilized publicly-owned properties. This year, the BPDA advanced the community’s vision for Nubian Square through proposed projects and opportunities to engage diverse development teams for three different sites in the area: the Blair Lot, Crescent Parcel, and Parcel P3.
Nubian Square Ascends (Blair Lot)
Designed to promote economic revitalization through locally owned businesses and support artistry in Nubian Square, the Nubian Ascends project will include space for culinary and marketplace space, a cultural hall, artist and maker space, lab and office uses, and 15 units of housing, ten of which will be income-restricted. The project dedicates 25 percent of the parcel to dynamic community gathering spaces and pedestrian improvements, including a public pedestrian link through the property that will create access to the retail, cultural and office portions of the site. The proposal meets the BPDA’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 (MBEs).
In November 2021, the BPDA tentatively designated Drexel Village, LLC, to develop the BPDA and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)-owned Crescent Parcel in Roxbury’s Nubian Square. The proposal plans to create a mixed-use development that includes affordable housing and community space across the Crescent Parcel and the neighboring parcel owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, as well as parish space for the historic, Roxbury-based St. Katharine Drexel Church. The property is located on a prominent corner at the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Tremont Street.
Following an extensive community process, in October 2021 the BPDA released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop Parcel P3 in Roxbury’s Nubian Square. The RFP calls for economic development and affordable housing opportunities that support the neighboring community and Roxbury residents. P3 is a 7.7 acre vacant parcel of land owned by the BPDA located along Tremont Street in Roxbury. Due to its size, proximity to public transit, major roads, and educational facilities, both the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan and PLAN: Nubian Square have highlighted the potential of the site to contribute to the economic development of Nubian Square.
Like all publicly-owned parcels in the City of Boston, the RFP for P3 includes a Diversity and Inclusion evaluation criterion, requiring proponents to include a Diversity and Inclusion Plan to outline their commitments to including minority/women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) in all aspects of their development which will be weighted at 25 percent of the total evaluation of the parcel.
Investing in Resiliency and Preparing for Current and Future Climate Risks
New zoning bolsters flood resilience
After years of work by BPDA staff, zoning was signed into law in October 2021 requiring new development and retrofits to take additional steps to limit the damage and displacement related to the impacts of coastal storms and sea level rise. The Coastal Flood Resilience Zoning Overlay District goes beyond the areas identified in FEMA flood maps, applying to areas of the City that could be inundated during a major coastal storm event, known as a 1 percent chance flood event, with 40-inches of sea level rise. Fulfilling steps outlined in Climate Ready Boston, the zoning overlay promotes resilient planning and design, provides consistent standards for the review of projects, and maximizes the benefits of investments in coastal resilience.
Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park (RLFMP) Climate Resiliency Funding Program
Due to its location and elevation, the 191-acre RLFMP is extremely vulnerable to coastal flooding and sea level rise. As identified in Climate Ready South Boston, large scale district-wide solutions are needed to protect the neighborhood’s jobs, and infrastructure. In 2021, the BPDA officially launched a public-private cost sharing mechanism to fund such investments which will ultimately benefit all tenants of the RLFMP. BPDA tenants in the RLFMP commit to the program, with each participating RLFMP tenant’s share of the resiliency expenses determined by their percentage of the RLFMP’s total built square footage. The BPDA funds the resiliency investments upfront and seeks reimbursement from tenants after the projects are underway. This solution enables expedited investment in projects that will sustain the RLFMP for maritime and other industrial tenants.
Implementing solutions to Boston’s transportation challenges
Parking minimums eliminated for affordable housing developments
In December 2021, Mayor Michelle Wu signed an amendment to the Boston Zoning Code to eliminate off-street parking minimums for affordable housing developments. The amendment will remove parking minimums for residential developments where at least 60 percent of the units are income-restricted at 100 percent Area Median Income (AMI) or below. This will streamline and remove burdens in developing affordable housing in Boston. This followed unanimous approval by the Boston Zoning Commission and the BPDA Board.
Transportation Demand Management
The BPDA joined the Boston Transportation Department this year to roll-out guidelines for new developments over 50,000 square feet, which will facilitate a more efficient and transparent development review process. As part of the new guidelines, developers of large projects must complete a demand management point system tool to increase access to sustainable transportation for their tenants.
Allston-Brighton Mobility Study
Following two and a half years of public engagement, the BPDA adopted the Allston-Brighton Mobility Plan in May 2021. The plan presents over 60 specific recommendations that will equitably expand the transit and bike networks, increase walkability, enhance the Main Street and neighborhood street experience, and simplify intersections for all users.
The plan responds to the increased pressure on the Allston and Brighton transportation networks resulting from the rapid growth of the neighborhoods. The BPDA worked closely with the community and other stakeholders to craft the final plan. Based on community feedback, the plan establishes nine goals in support of the planning study’s vision. The plan will add four additional miles of separated bike lanes, or bike lanes physically separated from vehicular travel lanes which, as research data shows, will increase the number of people willing to use bicycles.
Board adopts transportation plan for PLAN: South Boston Dot Ave
Following a year and half of public engagement, the BPDA Board adopted the PLAN: South Boston Dorchester Ave. Transportation Plan in August 2021, a main recommendation of the previously adopted planning study. The Transportation Plan responds to the anticipated growth in the South Boston Dorchester Avenue study area and the subsequent demand on the transportation network.
Key recommendations include a new well-connected street network, pedestrian and bicycle connections, and improvements to transit access and connectivity. Other recommendations include immediate improvements to safety, and transportation demand management initiatives to encourage mode shift from cars to walking, bicycling, and transit.
Investment in Public Art - PLAN: Mattapan Public Art Project
This year, the BPDA unveiled two new murals that are part of the PLAN: Mattapan Public Art Project, which builds on the agency’s PLAN: Mattapan study and delivers on the plan’s short-term implementation items identified by the community to support the creation of temporary public art in Mattapan. PLAN: Mattapan's goal is to work with the community to create a comprehensive vision to shape inclusive growth and investment throughout the neighborhood.
Carter Post mural
In October 2021, BPDA staff joined community members to unveil a mural created by local artist Jeremy ‘Sobek’ Harrison at the Carter Post at 1531 Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan. The mural was funded through a $15,000 grant from the BPDA.
This mural celebrates William E. Carter Post 16’s 100th anniversary. The Carter Post is the first chartered African-American Massachusetts Post, created by the members of the famed 372nd Infantry that served in France with the Red Hand Brigade. Sobek is a graffiti artist who has been creating since he was a child growing up in Mattapan, a neighborhood he says in many ways raised him.
Mattapan Teen Center mural
In May 2021, BPDA staff joined community members to unveil a mural created by local youth at the Mattapan Teen Center. The mural was funded through an $8,000 grant from the BPDA. The artwork depicts the characteristics that the teens feel describe the Center: engagement, community, activism, opportunity, safety, and fun.
Promoting Accessible Open Space
Supporting wetlands and affordable housing at 104-108 Walter Street
In a cross-departmental effort to support both Boston’s climate-ready resiliency and the creation of new affordable home ownership units, the BPDA used its Urban Renewal tools to acquire the 104 -108 Walter Street parcels to support affordable housing and protect wetland resources.
The property at 108 Walter Street in Roslindale was transferred to the Boston Conservation Commission and was added to the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild, providing close to an acre of buffer at the edge of the Roslindale Wetlands, as well as a more accessible point of entry to the existing urban wild. The parcel at 104 Walter Street has been designated for affordable homeownership units, and Habitat for Humanity was selected through an RFP process to construct four affordable units on site.