News & Updates

BPDA approves new Squares + Streets zoning districts

Mar 14, 2024

First office to residential conversion moves forward under City program

BOSTON - March 14, 2024 - The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) Board of Directors Thursday took a major step forward in the Squares + Streets planning and zoning initiative, approving an amendment to the Zoning Code with new zoning districts which will serve as a range of options for neighborhood centers and main streets across the City. The Board also approved six new development projects representing approximately 2.6 million square feet (SF). The new projects will create 147 residential units, 135 units, or 92 percent of these units are designated income-restricted, and will support approximately 2,325 construction jobs and 4,251 permanent jobs. These projects will make Boston a more resilient, affordable, and equitable city. 

Planning & Zoning

Board approves petition to add Squares + Streets Zoning Districts to zoning code

The BPDA Board approved a petition to amend the zoning code to add new mixed-use zoning districts to the code, also known as Squares + Streets zoning districts. This amendment to the code will now have to be approved by the Zoning Commission. The Squares + Streets initiative is focused on updating the zoning in Boston’s neighborhood centers to guide development that encourages a mix of uses and heights, creates housing diversity and growth opportunities, and encourages active streets. These neighborhood centers will go through a Squares + Streets Small Area Plan with the BPDA, two of which have already begun in Roslindale Square and Cleary Square. Through these plans, the community will work with the BPDA to identify  the combination of these districts that is most appropriate for their neighborhood center or main street. There are six districts which range from the ‘S0’ district that transitions residential neighborhoods into mixed-use areas, to the ‘S5’ district that has the widest range of uses and allows the greatest density.

Development Projects

281 Franklin Street project will convert Downtown office building to 15 new apartments

Live: 15 residential units, three income-restricted units
Work: Maintaining both ground floor commercial tenants
Connect: Close proximity to public transportation, downtown amenities
Sustain: All electric, adaptive reuse of the existing structure, compliant with Green Energy Stretch Code

Located Downtown, this project will be the first conversion of an office building to a residential building under the BPDA’s Downtown Residential Conversion Incentive PILOT program, which officially launched in October of 2023. This project will renovate the existing building to create 15 new residential units, while retaining the ground floor retail space, and will also include a bike storage room on site. In order to encourage new use of underutilized office space, the Downtown Conversion Program offers a tax abatement and a streamlined approval process to applicants who meet affordability and sustainability requirements, advancing key recommendations of the 2022 Downtown Revitalization Report and PLAN: Downtown. The project will comply with the new Inclusionary Zoning requirements, as well as the new Stretch Energy Code. This project was the first applicant to the program, and will begin construction in the coming months, exemplifying the tax abatement program’s streamlined interdepartmental review process.

Project at 290 Tremont Street to build new affordable housing on BPDA-owned land

Live: 132 income-restricted housing units, 36 homeownership opportunities
Work: Approximately 153 construction jobs 
Connect: Adjacent to Tufts Medical Center Orange Line MBTA stop  
Sustain: LEED Gold and Passive House Certification 

This project will create 132 income-restricted housing units, including 36 homeownership units in the Chinatown neighborhood. The site is owned by the BPDA and is currently used as a parking lot. The BPDA awarded tentative designation to the Asian Community Development Corporation and The Community Builders to redevelop the parcel (P12C) in 2023. This will be a transit-oriented development, as it is located in close proximity to the MBTA Orange Line and is walking distance from other MBTA lines, buses, and the Commuter Rail. The 12-story building will be divided into 34 one-bedroom apartments, 76 two-bedroom units, and 22 three-bedroom units. More than 100 bike parking spaces will be available for residents and visitors. There will also be commercial/community space to help activate the ground floor. The development will also create new public open space with new trees, and provide more lighting and landscape elements to increase walkability around the site. Additionally, a crosswalk will be added to Tremont Street. The project will also contribute a Bluebikes station on site.

840 Columbus Avenue project will build new student housing for Northeastern University

Live: Beds for approximately 1,200+ students, social lounge, fitness center, academic success center
Work: Approximately 452 construction jobs
Connect: Ground floor community space, small business entrepreneurship network, coworking space
Sustain: LEED Gold, all electric building, Passive House certification 

This new building on the Northeastern University campus will fulfill the University’s ten year Institutional Master Plan by providing more than 1,000 new student beds on campus. The building will be 23 stories, accommodate approximately 1,370 students, and provide space for student amenities. In addition, there will be a dedicated community space on the ground floor. This project will contribute $1 million to the Mayor’s Office of Housing to advance housing stabilization and wealth creation in the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to this project. Public realm improvements will include widening the sidewalks, a new bike lane, and more street trees. In addition, this project will contribute $188,375 to the Boston Transportation Department in support of the City’s bikeshare program, as well as provide two bikeshare stations on site.

Project at 66 Cambridge Street will bring a new, mixed-use development to Charlestown

Live: $9.3 million Linkage contribution towards affordable housing
Work: $1.7 million Linkage contribution towards jobs training, approximately 2,000 permanent jobs, biomedical careers training program on site, approximately 914 construction jobs
Connect: Publicly accessible open space, establishes bike and pedestrian connection from Hood Park to Sullivan Square Station
Sustain: Zero Carbon Zoning compliant, raising site to be compliant with 2070 sea level rise, EV parking, LEED Gold

This project would build two new office/lab buildings with ground floor restaurant and retail space in Charlestown. The project was highly shaped by the PLAN: Charlestown process, and aligns with many of its recommendations, including adding higher-density, mixed-use development with ground-floor retail in close proximity to public transportation, improving pedestrian and bicycle access through new street connections and open space, and leveraging greater height and density along I-93 to buffer residential neighborhoods from visual and sound impacts. In addition, this project will enhance and create new public open space on site. In support of transportation and public realm improvements, this project will contribute to the Charlestown Link shuttle service, as well as enhance the existing roadway on site, and improve pedestrian safety. The project will contribute $228,260 to the Boston Transportation Department to support the bikeshare system. In support of resiliency goals, this project will raise its first floor to comply with 2070 sea level rise projections, and also provide new landscaping to combat urban heat island effect. Community benefits for the project include a workforce development program geared towards the local population, with the intent of facilitating careers in the biomedical field.

1033-1055 Washington Street project in the South End will build new office, life science, and retail space

Live: $6.3 million in Linkage towards affordable housing
Work: Approximately 763 construction jobs, approximately 1,823 permanent jobs, $1.2 million in Linkage towards jobs training
Connect: $5 million in public realm improvements, close proximity to public transportation.
Sustain: LEED Gold, sea level rise resilient, parking for EVs

This project will convert what is currently a vacant warehouse and parking lot in the South End into two new mixed-use buildings comprised of office, life science, retail, and community space. In addition, the development will include space set aside as cultural space, or as space for a startup business. This development will include 266 bike parking spaces for building tenants and visitors, and contribute $164,640 to the Boston Transportation Department in support of the City’s bikeshare program. The new development will include significant improvements to the public realm like new street trees, a pedestrian plaza, and improvements to sidewalks, traffic flow, and accessibility. 

Project at 716 Columbus Place will renovate Northeastern University administrative building

Work: Mail center for Northeastern University, Northeastern University Police headquarters 
Connect: Public realm improvements to Benton Street, approximately 30 construction jobs
Sustain: LEED Silver

This project will take a seven-story Northeastern University building and renovate the first five floors and basement. This building houses a mail distribution center, the Northeastern University Police Headquarters, office space, study space and meeting spaces. Public realm and transportation improvements will be made to Benton Street to mitigate the impacts of the mailroom operations. The pedestrian experience down Benton Street will be improved by reconstructing sidewalks and curb ramps as the project formalizes the mailroom loading zone. This project will support the City’s bikeshare program with a contribution of $14,280 to the Boston Transportation Department.

Planned Development Area (PDA) approvals

425 Medford Street project will bring new housing, resiliency measures to protect the Charlestown waterfront

Live: 500 units, 20 percent income-restricted, $15 million in linkage towards affordable housing
Work: $2.7 million in linkage towards jobs training, commercial space, life science and tech space, estimated to create thousands of jobs
Connect: Approximately 13 acres of publicly accessible open space, community center on site
Sustain: Resiliency barrier that will protect Charlestown from storm surge and sea level rise

Located in Charlestown, this project would reopen the neighborhood to the Mystic River for the first time in more than 100 years. When completed, it would include six new buildings that would create a new mixed-use neighborhood along the waterfront, including office, residential, retail, hotel, and community space. Currently, this project is estimated to create 500 new units of housing, including 100 homeownership units, and 400 rental units. Of these units, 20 percent will be income-restricted. The project aligns with the goals and guidelines in PLAN: Charlestown, and advances specific open space, transportation network, and resilience goals outlined in the plan. In support of City resiliency goals, this project would create an integrated resiliency barrier along the waterfront built to 2070 flood resilience standards, as part of a new publicly accessible waterfront landscape that will include three new public parks. The project will be phased and constructed over the course of approximately 10-15 years, with each phase going through the Article 80 review process. The initial phase of construction would include the resiliency barrier, which will protect 200 acres of Charlestown, as well as parts of Cambridge and Somerville, from flooding and sea level rise. In support of transportation goals, the project would also include a new roadway network and new bicycle and pedestrian pathways within the site intended to reconnect the community to the waterfront. This project would also include more than a thousand bike parking spaces. In addition, the project will contribute $443,559 to the Boston Transportation Department in support of the bikeshare system, and make space for two Bluebikes docks on site. 

In addition to these projects, the board approved:

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