Boston Planning Board Advances Citywide Zoning Reform Initiative

The Boston Planning and Development Board recently convened to tackle various development projects and zoning initiatives poised to transform the city’s landscape. Among the most consequential topics was the squares and streets Citywide Planning and Zoning initiative, a comprehensive reform that aims to expand housing options, support small businesses, and improve the co-benefits of development in mixed-use areas of the city. The initiative, which seeks to update zoning options to support squares and streets areas, underscores the city’s dedication to anti-displacement policies, affordable housing, and climate resilience.

The zoning reform team presented text amendments important to the initiative, highlighting the intricate nature of the current zoning code, which has been characterized by its length, complexity, and inconsistent regulations that contribute to inequitable development outcomes across different city areas. The proposed zoning reforms are part of a larger strategy involving extensive community engagement, an interdisciplinary approach, and the incorporation of planning with other city policies and programs. The reforms were discussed in detail, including the creation of new districts, the impact on land use regulations, and the modernization of dimensional regulations.

The meeting also served as a platform for community feedback, with over 240 comments and 35 letters received during the public comment period. Themes emerging from this feedback revolved around concerns of rapid city-wide zoning reform, a desire for increased community engagement, housing production, and affordable housing. The drafting process of the zoning text amendment involved numerous public meetings, office hours, and legal reviews.

While some city councilors and community members expressed support for the growth potential and necessary housing affordability, others voiced concerns about the process and the need for clearer presentations and a more collaborative approach to neighborhood mapping.

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In addition to the zoning reforms, the board addressed a variety of development projects across Boston. These included the construction of a 23-story dormitory building at Northeastern University, intended to provide 1,370 dorm beds and a community-focused ground floor. The project aligns with the university’s master plan and includes significant public realm and infrastructure updates.

The board also discussed a proposed development plan for Plan Development Area number 150 in the South End, which involves the construction of two new buildings with retail space, office, and research laboratory space. The project, which has been approved by the Boston Civic Design Commission, aims to create open space and midblock pedestrian connections, reflecting substantial community engagement and support from elected officials.

A notable focus of the meeting was on the proposed development on Tremont Street in Chinatown, where the construction of 96 income-restricted residential rental units and 36 income-restricted homeownership units is planned. The project, which aims to create affordable housing within the neighborhood, has undergone a review process and aligns with the city’s housing goals.

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Other topics discussed included the significant rehabilitation of the Mildred C. Haley Apartments, which will modernize 456 units of public housing, and the development of 15 income-restricted homeownership units at 75-81 Dudley Street, which has been redesigned to preserve local silver Linden trees.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Mayor:
Michelle Wu
Planning Board Officials:
Priscilla Rojas, Kate Bennett, Dr. Theodore C. Landsmark, Raheem Shepard

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