Stuart Street Study (Back Bay)

The Stuart Street Planning Study was a multi-year planning process that began in 2008, in response to significant projects in the area, including the Clarendon, Columbus Center,131 Dartmouth Street, and 10 Saint James Avenue developments and the need for a replacement of the 20+ year-old Downtown Interim Planning Overlay District. An Advisory Group was formed to assist the BRA and its consultant team throughout the planning process.

While the Study concluded in January 2011, the resulting recommendations were left in the interim as development guidelines for the study area. A public meeting was held on Monday, September 21, 2015 to re-present the recommended Guidelines and discuss the zoning process that lies ahead. On October 15, 2015, the BRA Board adopted the Guidelines, which now serves as the document for all development projects in the study area to refer to for recommended dimensional requirements, performance standards, and community benefits.

On January 28, 2016, another public meeting was held to review the draft zoning language. On February 11, 2016, the BRA Board approved the draft zoning language. On March 9, 2016, the Boston Zoning Commission approved the new zoning, adopted as Article 48 and Map 1S in the Boston Zoning Code.

Study Background

The Study examined potential development opportunities, identified and defined height, density, and use guidelines, and developed scenarios for future development in the area. The study also included an assessment of the impacts of density and height on the surrounding neighborhoods, including the impacts on the transportation infrastructure, transit system, parking supply, and the environmental impacts such as wind, shadow, and groundwater. Provisions for new and the protection of existing open space, pedestrian access, historically significant buildings, and view corridors were also included.

The area’s long-term build-out will impact nearby structures, landmark buildings, residential areas, and open spaces. As development occurs, it will need to take into consideration the wind and shadow impacts on neighboring Copley Square, the Boston Public Garden, and the adjacent communities of Bay Village, the South End and Back Bay. Additionally, since much of the Back Bay is built on landfill, maintaining appropriate groundwater levels is of importance.

The end result of the Stuart Street Planning Study will be new development guidelines and zoning recommendations for the Stuart Street blocks.

Study Area

The Stuart Street Planning Study area, bound by St. James Avenue to the north, Dartmouth Street to the west, Columbus Avenue/Cortes Streets to the south, and Arlington Street to the east, represents a 12+ block area totaling more than forty acres. A number of significant Boston landmarks define the area: the 790-foot Hancock Building, the Old Hancock Building, Copley Square, and Trinity Church. The area is also identified by the diagonal intersection of Columbus Avenue and sits adjacent to the historic neighborhoods of Bay Village and South End. Most of the study area is located in the General Business District (B) and within the Downtown Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD), which became effective in 1987. The remainder of the area is included in the Bay Village Neighborhood District (Article 63), and the South End Neighborhood District (Article 64) both adopted in 1998.

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