This guest blog post was written by Meghan Doherty of BLDUP.
At a recent NAIOP Government Affairs program, hosted at the office of Nutter McClennen & Fish, Boston Planning and Development Authority (BPDA) Director Brian Golden discussed Boston’s current development climate and the upcoming planning initiatives his office is pursuing.
Director Golden opened with a brief history of the BPDA crediting Mayor John B. Hynes for starting the office in the late 1950s. During that time, as the middle class was moving away from cities into the suburbs, Boston saw its population drastically declining, which led to the creation of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The newly created entity was tasked with promoting development in order to attract economic investment in Boston. It worked. Between 1980 and 2010, Boston’s population grew at a rate of around 1,500 people each year. Since 2010, Boston’s population growth has skyrocketed gaining around 8,000 additional residents each year.
In fact, Boston’s rapid growth in the past 10 years has led to the BPDA adjusting its population projections. In 2014, just over 709,000 citizens were projected in the City of Boston by 2030. Revised projections have increased that number to 759,000. This population growth is driving development and planning throughout the city. Since Mayor Walsh has taken office, around $50M new square feet of development have been approved. Mayor Walsh’s administration has also increased the city’s housing goals from 53,000 to 69,000 new units of housing. Currently, Boston is ahead of pace for this goal since much of the development in the past few years has been residential.
Director Golden also discussed the importance of the IDP requirements currently in place to bring middle income and affordable housing to the city. Since the IDP program began in 2000, nearly 2,600 income-restricted housing units have been built and over $137M has been raised in the Inclusionary Housing Fund. When asked about the possibility of increasing the IDP requirement from the existing 13%, Director Golden cited two examples from recent trips to Seattle and San Francisco. In San Francisco, IDP requirements are high, around 20%, and this burden has halted many projects. This policy, Director Golden believes, is an overreach. As he said, “20% of nothing is nothing.” In Seattle, however, the IDP requirement is 11% and working well. His goal for Boston is to ensure that projects can move forward while also providing for the maximum amount of housing the market will allow.
Other highlights from Director Golden’s presentation included:
- New projects are increasing property tax revenue for the city at a record pace, and these are benefits that flow to all Bostonians. For 2019, the BPDA estimates an additional $77M in tax revenue from new projects alone. These funds are crucial to the city budget to maintain the high quality of life Boston residents expect.
- Diversity is top of mind for the BPDA’s actions in the city. All RFPs for public land will include criteria to promote diversity and inclusion. The BPDA expects to see a robust plan for diversity and inclusion through all phases of the development including the development/design team through the workforce building the project.
- The BDPA’s Resilient Boston Harbor initiative, which will kick off public engagement this month, will focus on how all different types of existing and new projects can deal with rising sea levels. The BPDA’s goal is to use this opportunity to elevate the public realm. Golden cited Moakley Park as an example. Plans here will rework Columbia Road and Day Boulevard to build a natural barrier to deal with the predicted sea level rise while also creating a world-class park. 10% of the city’s capital budget will be devoted to building out pieces of elevated public infrastructure like this project.
- The BPDA currently is working on 16 major planning initiatives across the city. A full list can be found here http://www.bostonplans.org/planning/planning-initiatives
During the Q+A, when asked what the biggest hurdles are for Boson to reach its 2030 goals, Director Golden cited transportation and affordability. Currently, his office is working on the Go Boston mobility study and stressed that ensuring quality public transit will be key to ensuring continued growth.
Director Golden’s presentation was a thorough overview of the state of development in Boston. It gave a positive view of the future of Boston’s economic and community-oriented future, and his comments gave attendees important insight into the goals of the BPDA over the next few years. It is clear that Director Golden has a holistic understanding of the landscape in Boston, and will continue to work with NAIOP members and other key stakeholders to plan for Boston’s future, while respecting its past.