Community Relations for Boston’s Building Boom

img_6120By: Chris Tracy

Boston is in the midst of what will be the biggest building boom in the City’s history, bypassing both the infilling of the Back Bay in the late 1800’s and the construction of the Prudential, John Hancock and other high spine buildings in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Large-scale real estate development through the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA)’s Article 80 process is touching not only downtown and the urban core, but every neighborhood in the City of Boston.

Boston’s population is rising exponentially due to a multitude of factors – so-called meds and eds (hospitals and universities) are as strong as ever but there is also a rapidly expanding business community moving to Boston. General Electric is the most high profile example, but there is also New Balance, Converse and Adidas. Biotech companies are moving across the river from Cambridge and Somerville as well – creating a good problem: Where are all these new residents going to live and what does the city need to do to house them?

Enter Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s ambitious goal to create 53,000 new units of housing in the city by the year 2030. Currently, Boston is the third most expensive city to live in the country behind New York and San Francisco. The supply and demand of housing is out of balance; many people want to live here but the existing housing stock is low, which drives up the prices of existing housing.

Mayor Walsh’s Administration and BPDA are aiming to create housing across all income levels to help balance out this supply and demand problem. Low, middle and high income housing is seen as a solution to level off high housing costs and not create situation, like in San Francisco, where people are being priced out. Boston is working to stay in front of these challenges so that there is enough housing to for all future residents that want to make Boston their home.

Sometimes developers and project proponents can find the approval process at the BPDA board and City’s Zoning Board of Appeals or Zoning Commission arduous and frustrating. Additionally, many long term Boston residents have been resistant to the changes presented by new development and to the changes these projects bring to neighborhoods. O’Neill and Associates works with clients to navigate the complex, strenuous process of seeking city approvals. We work closely with clients and stakeholders to establish realistic expectations around projects and manage these expectations while always advocating for smart, tasteful, sensitive and appropriate development. The Article 80 process is community driven. Concessions may be appropriate at times in order to meet opposition halfway, but the goal always remains to get shovels in the ground on suitable, positive projects that benefit the current and future residents of Boston.

To learn more about our community relations services visit our website www.oneillandassoc.com or call us at 617-646-1000.