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BSA News

Mar 08, 2023

BPDA Sets New Direction Focused on Equity, Affordability, and Resilience

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Sean Sweeney, unsplash

In her 2023 State of the City address, Boston Mayor Wu called for “charting a new course for growth with people as our compass” that concentrates on what she defined as the most critical issues facing the city: resiliency, affordability, and equity. In the aftermath of Mayor Wu’s comments, there has been a lot of speculation about what the Mayor’s proposed changes to the development review process will mean for those in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) community. Approximately 50 members joined the BSA’s bi-monthly Firm Principals Meeting on February 17 to hear from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) about the agency’s new direction and engage in a dialogue about the BPDA’s plans.

Chief of Planning and Director of the BPDA Arthur Jemison talked about the need to reposition the agency to address the challenges that Boston will face in the next 60 years. He highlighted recent growth that the city has experienced, underscoring that this growth was not as widespread as it should have been and that “value should be shared across the spectrum.” He also addressed a number of climate challenges the city is confronting, including flooding and heat, and the need to focus on resilience in the next generation of the city’s planning and development. Jemison and his team outlined a plan including the following priorities:

  • Creating a new Boston Planning Advisory Council to guide planning and implementation of the city’s built environment.
  • Accelerating planning and zoning activities to prioritize appropriate growth that is focused on resilience, affordability, and equity.
  • Improving the Article 80 development review process to make it more predictable for communities and developers.
  • Establishing a new City Planning and Design Department, beginning the process to align the BPDA with the City.
  • Filing a home Rule Petition to End Urban Renewal and modernize the BPDA’s mission and charter to focus on resiliency, affordability and equity.

Learn more about Mayor Wu’s vision and the BPDA’s plans.

The BPDA’s comments were followed by a number of participant questions, ranging from the timeline for Article 80 modifications, to whether streamlined zoning approvals are part of the plan, to implications for the current adoption of Massachusetts’ stretch building energy code and the new specialized opt-in municipal code.

At the close of the meeting, Jemison stated that he would like to engage with members of the BSA community in coming months to hear perspectives from architects and other members of the AEC community. The BSA will be creating a mechanism for people to submit questions and suggestions, and will host a virtual meeting with Jemison in the next few months.

Post the meeting, Larry Spang, AIA, LEED AP, principal at Arrowstreet, commented: “I think it is a good to be thinking about updating the Article 80 process to address today’s projects and environment. Transparency in the process is important: The architectural community needs to understand the process, the timeline, and how we can provide input. In the meantime, a number of projects are moving forward and we are wondering if the projects will be impacted because of the Article 80 updating process.”

“As architects, we have knowledge related to topics such as transportation and access, housing and neighborhood character, density and open space, etc. that could be helpful to the BPDA’s agenda,” said Ray Porfilio, AIA, LEED AP, principal at Epstein Joslin Architects. “I am hoping that the BPDA can tap into the broader design community to assist with this effort.”

BPDA Issues Article 80 Review RFP

On February 20, the BPDA’s Development Review team released a Request for Proposals (RFP) that includes a review and analysis of the existing Article 80 code and operations, and asks for recommendations to make them more predictable, accountable, and transparent. Proposals are due at noon on March 24. Organizations are encouraged to respond to the RFP in teams to ensure specialized, local expertise that enables this work to be delivered quickly and effectively. This project is being pursued as one of two related efforts to transform the BPDA’s development review practices. A second RFP to study and improve the Article 80 Community Engagement process will be issued over the next month. Questions should be directed to Kevin Crossley at [email protected].