Department Mission

The Urban Design (UD) Department ensures that the urban design principles that define Boston’s unique built environment are widely promoted and embedded in the planning and redevelopment projects in the city. Every day, UD's multidisciplinary staff faces the challenge of balancing the City's historic qualities and contemporary architecture, be it a small porch addition in Roslindale or a downtown high rise. The UD Department also exists to ensure that the public realm of streets, sidewalks, open spaces, and ground plane are designed to enrich public life and Boston's reputation as a walking city. 

Role in the Agency

The Urban Design Department is a pivotal part of the Planning Division and works closely with the Development Review Department.  UD's input informs planning studies by contributing key urban design principles as well as by helping determine the appropriate densities, heights, and characteristics of an area. The Urban Design Department also plays a crucial role in the development process by shaping individual building projects through design review required through Article 80 and Zoning Board of Appeal processes. 


The size of the department is intentionally small and its organization relatively flat. This ensures efficiency and promotes individual responsibility and initiative.  The department is structured around individuals or small teams with the following specific areas of expertise and accountability:

Design Review and Studies

The design review function of the UD department plays a key role in the interagency review for Article 80 large and small project review, Zoning Board of Appeals, and institutional planning.  Along with design review, Urban Design offers comprehensive sign review, providing small and large businesses the opportunity to work with BPDA Urban Design staff to tailor their specific business’s signage needs.

Landscape Design

The BPDA design review provides landscape design review, which assists with site layout, grading and drainage, site accessibility, planting selections, site material selections, relevance of the proposed site design to the proposed building, and compliance with the Boston Complete Streets Initiative.

The BPDA Staff Landscape Architect acts as a liaison to the Public Improvement Commission and provides review and coordination support to public-private Partnerships developed with established business associations and improvement districts with the intent of beautifying important retail districts throughout the City.

Model Building

The BPDA is home to a 1:40 inch scale, physical, basswood model of the downtown and portions of Innovation District, Charlestown, North End, Beacon Hill and Back Bay. It was started in the 1980s and is kept current by an in-house full time model builder. The model is used to study planning and development options within this area as well as to describe the city to visitors to the BPDA and the city.


Diana Fernandez Bibeau, Deputy Chief of Urban Design
Michael Cannizzo, Deputy Director for Urban Design
Meera Deean, Assistant Deputy Director for Urban Design
Elizabeth A. Stifel, Senior Architect and Urban Designer, Executive Director of Boston Civic Design Commission
Colleen Woods, Administrative Assistant to the Urban Design Department and the Boston Civic Design Committee

For more information, please contact Diana Fernandez Bibeau, Deputy Chief of Urban Design, or Michael Cannizzo, Deputy Director for Urban Design.