News & Updates

What is Urban Planning? A South End Case Study

Jul 25, 2014

2014-Planning-Urban-Planning-Overview-(Handout)_v1_r1-(3).pngWhen BRA sets out to "plan" a neighborhood, what exactly does that look like?
Ultimately, professional planners and urban designers work closely with residents and business owners to develop ideas for spurring and shaping development in a manner that enhances the urban fabric. 
This process starts with public meetings, visioning/mapping exercises, and research by staff and consultants. Topics discussed could include transportation, open space, housing, urban design, environmental concerns, or economic development. By the end of the planning process, which incorporates input from many stakeholders, a neighborhood will have a new "plan" document which describes the community's vision for its future and path for growth. Planning exercises may result in new zoning, land disposition processes, or agreements with major stakeholders. 
The BRA's Harrison Albany planning study and rezoning, completed in 2012, is a great example of a planning process that spurred positive changes in the South End's mixed-use/light-industrial area south of Washington Street.
The Harrison Albany study and rezoning was led by a team of community planning and urban design staff and informed by a 30-member business and resident Advisory Group from 2009-2012. The initiative aimed to create an 18-hour mixed-use district that would serve as a pedestrian-friendly connection between the South End, Chinatown and South Boston.
The new plan and zoning increased the allowed heights and FARs within certain areas to attract development. In exchange for the increased density, approved developers would be required to construct new street connections, enhance pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, and build affordable start-up business spaces as well as affordable housing. 
Since the approval of the new zoning, approximately 1.9 million gross square feet of development in ten buildings has been approved for construction, including 1,613 dwelling units, 35,000 square feet of retail uses, and a supermarket. The Factory at 46 Wareham project recently joined this group, filing an adaptive renovation of a former factory into residential units and significant public streetscape improvements.


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