Squares + Streets Zoning Districts

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[Monday, April 29] The Squares + Streets Zoning Text Amendment was adopted on April 17, 2024 by the Boston Zoning Commission. This action has established the Squares + Streets Districts in the Boston Zoning Code as well as their regulations, but the actual application of those districts in local parts of Boston will happen only after community engagement processes and analysis of local contexts through the Squares + Streets Small Area Plans or other planning initiative.

Overview

Squares + Streets is a planning and zoning initiative of the BPDA and the City of Boston that focuses on neighborhood centers that are near transit and along main streets across Boston. A major component of the initiative is updating the zoning in these neighborhood centers to guide development that encourages a mix of building uses and heights, creates housing diversity and growth opportunities, and encourages active streets.

The BPDA’s Zoning Reform Team has drafted a zoning text amendment that has been adopted into the Boston Zoning Code to meet these goals by creating six (6) new Squares + Streets zoning districts.

Illustration of Squares + Streets zoning districts

Squares + Streets zoning districts will be categorized by how building types, land uses, parcel sizes, and building scales function across the variety of Boston’s main streets and neighborhood centers.

These zoning districts are a set of zoning options that can be mapped onto appropriate areas of the City only after community engagement processes and analysis of local contexts.

Squares + Streets Draft Zoning Text Amendment

To create new Squares + Streets Districts, a new chapter in the Boston Zoning Code called Article 26 has been drafted and adopted. Related updates to several existing chapters of the Zoning Code were adopted as well, including Article 8 (Regulation of Uses) and other citywide chapters of the Zoning Code to make sure that updates to Article 26 and Article 8 are reflected throughout the Zoning Code.

Please review the ADOPTED ZONING TEXT AMENDMENT AND SUMMARY MATERIALS BELOW to understand how all these updates work together to enable these zoning districts to function in meeting the goals of this initiative:

Public Comment Period

The public comment period to inform revisions made to the Squares + Streets Draft Zoning Text Amendment was open from December 5, 2023 to February 2, 2024. During this period, The BPDA received over 240 public comment submissions and over 35 public comment letters sent via mail and email.

Staff on the BPDA Zoning Reform Team reviewed these comments throughout the revision process and have written responses to both public comment submissions and public comment letters sent during the comment period. Those responses can be found below:

Public comments have informed revisions to the draft zoning text amendment to refine the dimensional, land use, and other regulations for each new zoning district to align with citywide goals for development on main streets and in squares (as stated on the Squares + Streets initiative page).

Public comments received during and after the public comment period were shared with the Boston Zoning Commission during the hearing that was held on April 17, 2024 and attendees were able to provide public testimony at the hearing.

Connecting Planning Processes to Squares + Streets Zoning

Upcoming Planning: As part of the broader Squares + Streets initiative, the BPDA’s Comprehensive Planning Team will conduct 6-9 month Small Area Plans in areas identified as active neighborhood centers and main streets near high frequency and high capacity transit resources. Engagement in the Small Area Plans processes will be a key part in determining the appropriate selection of Squares + Streets zoning districts for a given area. The first two locations for these Small Area Plans are Cleary Square (Hyde Park) and Roslindale Square.

Recent Planning: In May 2023, the BPDA adopted PLAN: Mattapan, which identified appropriate locations in Mattapan for Squares + Streets zoning districts. Mattapan will see updates to its zoning maps and zoning districts based on the recommendations from PLAN: Mattapan that align with the Squares + Streets initiative.

Past Events

Timeline

Zoning analysis, drafting, and adoption timeline graphic

Analysis + Evaluation Period:

  • Analyze existing building uses and development trends in Boston’s Squares + Streets areas to inform the new zoning districts.
  • Share and gather feedback on the initial analysis at a public meeting with Boston residents and at small workshops with direct users of the Zoning Code – community development corporations, small scale developers, designers, and the Inspectional Services Department (ISD).

Drafting, Public Comment + Revision Period:

  • Write the draft zoning text amendment to propose the new zoning districts based on feedback from the evaluation period.
  • Share the draft zoning text amendment at a public meeting and hold a public comment period to gather feedback. Hold virtual office hours for interested parties to ask Zoning Reform staff questions about the amendment. Share the revised draft zoning text amendment at a public meeting based on public comments.

Zoning Adoption Period:

  • Present to the BPDA Board for approval to petition the Zoning Commission on adopting the zoning text amendment. Present to the Zoning Commission for adoption of the zoning text amendment into the Zoning Code.