The Boston Globe Spotlight Team to Discuss Racism at A Faith That Does Justice Community Meeting

AFTDJ BG Speakers

Left to Right: Patricia Wen, Akilah Johnson, and Liz Kowalczyk of the Boston Globe

Boston’s legacy of racial injustice is something that the community as a whole struggles to address adequately.  In addition to incidents of individual racism, the region continues to see inequities in education, home ownership, wealth, and civic and business leadership between black and white residents.  A Faith That Does Justice (AFTDJ) is seeking to be a part of the conversation on these issues by convening three members of The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team to discuss their findings on racism in Boston and the surrounding area at the organization’s next Community Meeting.  The meeting is entitled Racism: An Ongoing Dilemma and will highlight what these members of the Spotlight team  learned by being a part of the Globe’s December 2017 seven-part series about racism in the region.

Those interested in attending AFTDJ’s meeting on March 13th can do so by registering at the organization’s website.  The event will be held at The Cathedral Church of Saint Paul at 138 Tremont Street, across from Park Street T Station in Boston, from 6:15 to 8:15 pm.

AFTDJ is working to move people to action in confronting injustices in the United States. The goal is to create solidarity among people who very often have little contact in contemporary society – those with wealth, education, and privilege and those who are living in poverty and in threatened vulnerable communities. This Community Meeting will help educate participants in the challenges facing those afflicted by racial injustice and ways they can work to improve it.

AFTDJ was initially formed as a program in San Diego, where Fr. Peter W. Gyves, SJ MD, brought together English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities to share experiences and concerns about the direction the country was going in.  The program moved to Boston last year and its mission has expanded. In addition to holding similar workshops, which brings together vulnerable populations and long-time Boston residents together, the organization is hosting a series of Community Meetings around topics that impact vulnerable populations, such as housing and homelessness.

In a recent op-ed for the National Catholic Reporter, AFTDJ’s Fr. Gyves, wrote, “It is more important now more than ever to resist Trump and his intolerance of people who do not look like or think as he does.”

The Globe’s Spotlight series was developed in response to Boston’s stereotype as one of the most racist cities in the country. To gather insight into the issues facing the African American community in Boston, the Spotlight team launched surveys and conducted interviews to gain insight on the topic.  The team thoroughly researched niches such as the Seaport, hospitals, colleges, and sports in the series.

Patricia Wen, the editor of the Spotlight series, and reporters Akilah Johnson and Liz Kowalczyk will discuss at the event why the Globe undertook the series and what they learned about racism, Boston, and ways the city can improve racial relations.  The event will be moderated by Rev. Dr. Gregory Groover, Sr, of the Historic Charles St. A.M.E. Church in Roxbury.  The evening’s discussion will also include remarks from AFTDJ founder and director, Fr. Gyves.

If you are interested in learning more about A Faith That Does Justice, please visit their website here.  Space is limited for the Community Meeting, so please register soon.

O’Neill and Associates Expects the Positive Momentum in Boston to Continue with Mayor Walsh’s Second Term



Mayor Martin J. Walsh was sworn in to serve a second term.*


As Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh begins his second four year term, O’Neill and Associates expects the positive momentum in Boston to continue. We find ways to help the administration’s vision for the City while we work to advance our clients’ goals. January 1st was a historic day of pomp and circumstance as former Vice President Joe Biden was on hand as Mayor Walsh took the oath of office at the historic Cutler Majestic Theater on Tremont St.

Mayor Walsh impressed many insiders throughout the 2017 campaign. He chose not to simply rest on his laurels during the campaign, and showed a tenacious campaign spirit and an organized team in every ward and precinct throughout the City. The results spoke for themselves; Mayor Walsh garnered 66 percent of the vote in his reelection, and he sent a strong message that he is committed to his vision and leading this City into the 2020s.

Boston is a city on the move. Mayor Walsh helped bring General Electric’s world headquarters to the Fort Point Channel. This global corporate giant is already making an impact on the City through its charitable giving. It also has become a fan of the home team by flashing its logo on the jerseys of the Boston Celtics in a partnership in which it will provide the historic team with 21st century data analysis, and partner with the team to support community initiatives.

The development boom has continued and once completed, will be the biggest in the City’s history as Mayor Walsh aims to stabilize housing prices in a City that has continued to see its population rise. The Mayor also has also been praised for his accessibly, his modernization of City Hall and how it tracks progress and civic engagement, and the creation of over 70,000 new jobs.

The Mayor says that his second term will prioritize the implementation of ideas established in his first four years in office. Among the second term goals that Walsh laid out in his inauguration speech were stabilizing the City’s middle-class by improving school curriculums and school buildings, as well as creating more homeownership opportunities and assistance. He also announced an effort to help the most marginalized citizens by housing more homeless people and rebuilding the Long Island Bridge to support and assist those affected by the opioid crisis.

O’Neill and Associates respects the productive relationships we have with the Walsh Administration. The reach and results of our client engagements extend to Boston City Hall and municipal government because of our deep knowledge of the city and our skill sets with municipal relations. Whether it’s cutting through departmental requirements and procedures, earning key approvals at Boards like the Zoning Board of Appeals or Boston Licensing Board or traversing through the arduous processes of the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA), O’Neill and Associates is prepared to help make Boston even better. We congratulate Mayor Walsh and look forward to more progress in 2018.

*Image from

Three Questions with Christopher Tracy, Senior Director


Proposal Boston Sky Line

Christopher Tracy, Senior Director

What are you seeing right now in real estate development in Greater Boston?

It’s pretty clear that there’s tremendous growth taking place. You see it every day with more people and new structures. We can now add Amazon to the growing list of companies calling Boston home. Amazon expects to bring 900 new jobs to Fort Point channel, where GE is relocating its world headquarters. And according to census reports in May, Boston has seen an 8.4 percent rise in population since 2010 and is now the 22nd largest city in the United States. In the City of Boston and surrounding municipalities, housing and planning agencies are continuing to work with developers to approve residential housing proposals and increase the housing stock, which will hopefully soften housing prices.

What strategies does O’Neill and Associates employ to support real estate development clients?

We use a multi-pronged approach to help clients successfully navigate the arduous processes of permitting approvals to expedite their ability to get shovels in the ground. When I say multi-pronged, I mean that we combine our grassroots community outreach strategies with our experience, relationships, and understanding of relevant government agencies involved in permitting and use, along with public relations and social-digital media tools to close gaps and meet any audience in any venue. It used to be that you reached people at an address. Today, you need to reach people digitally. O’Neill and Associates is uniquely qualified as a development partner because we can capably guide clients through these often confusing approval processes. We have an experienced team from the public sector with first-hand knowledge of the goals that cities and towns hope to achieve when considering smart growth opportunities.

What excites you most/do you enjoy most about your sector?

Boston is absolutely booming and thriving with energy, opportunity and community right now. When this building boom is complete, it will be the largest in Boston’s history, bypassing the infilling of the Back Bay and the construction of the high spine corridor. The City has never been cleaner, more active and exciting. I like being a part of this chapter. O’Neill and Associates and our clients are making an impact by increasing housing, including affordable units, enhancing vibrancy and activity in communities and improving neighborhoods in and around Boston. I have the ability to help clients make a tangible impact on the city and its future.

CEDAC Commits $8.5 Million to Preserve Affordable Housing in Boston’s Fenway Neighborhood

Massachusetts notched another win this month in its continued efforts to preserve affordable housing.  On April 10th, the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) announced that it had committed over $8.5 million in financing to Fenway Community Development Corporation (Fenway CDC) to purchase and preserve Burbank Gardens, an existing affordable housing development located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston. This residence is one of many 13A properties whose 40 year mortgage will reach maturity in March 2018, risking tenant displacement and loss of affordable housing. Fenway CDC closed on the purchase of the property on the same day.

In 2009, the Massachusetts legislature passed into law Chapter 40T. This law has given the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and CEDAC tools to monitor and address the expiring use challenge. Among the most important provisions of Chapter 40T are purchase rights to allow DHCD or its designated agent to acquire and preserve these expiring affordable housing projects if an owner offers to sell a building.

When the seller of Burbank Gardens put the property on the market in early 2016, Fenway CDC was designated by DHCD through Chapter 40T to purchase and preserve the 52-unit residence. The seller accepted Fenway CDC’s offer in September 2016.

“Preserving Burbank Gardens is an important step in the Commonwealth’s ongoing efforts to maintaining affordable housing,” said CEDAC’s Executive Director Roger Herzog. “It demonstrates once again that the innovative Chapter 40T law remains an effective tool and is a national model for preserving quality affordable housing.”

Fenway CDC, established in 1973, is a membership organization that builds and preserves affordable housing and champions local projects to protect the neighborhood’s economic and racial diversity as well as its long term vibrancy. The organization also provides social services, workforce development programs, financial literacy assistance, health programs, and adult education. They have developed nearly 500 affordable homes that house about 1,500 people, including seniors, families, and people living with disabilities.

With the acquisition of Burbank Gardens, Fenway CDC plans to ensure that 51 of the 52 apartments remain affordable for low and moderate income households. The property currently consists of 52 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. CEDAC provided a $313,000 predevelopment loan and, with participation by Eastern Bank, an $8,268,525 acquisition loan to Fenway CDC for this important preservation effort.

“CEDAC was thrilled to work with a mission-driven non-profit to preserve this crucial affordable housing resource,” said Bill Brauner, CEDAC’s Director of Housing Preservation and Policy. “The involvement of public sector agencies, including MassHousing, the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development and DHCD, was crucial to this transaction.”

Click here to read more about the expiring use challenge and CEDAC’s work in producing and preserving affordable housing.

Development Boom’s Benefit to Boston Residents

img_6120By Chris Tracy

With new development often comes neighborhood concern. Any project that adds more density, residential units and vehicular traffic to streets can cause anxiety and fear of what’s to come from new development. Boston is no stranger to these challenges; Bostonians love their unique neighborhoods and the quaintness that each individual neighborhood has to itself.

During the past few years, Boston has undergone tremendous growth, not only in the downtown and urban core but in every neighborhood in the City (Read about Boston’s Building Boom).  At some point in the development process, every project encounters residents who care deeply about their communities and are concerned with how their community might change. Some residents view new development as only catered to a future resident, with no benefit to existing residents. This is why the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) and City of Boston staff often are met with the question from current residents: “How does this benefit me?”

Two recent Boston Globe articles (“Boston Reaps Tax Windfall from New Construction” and “Average Boston-Area Rent Falls for the First Time in Almost 7 Years”) have addressed how building new units and adding residents to the tax base can actually be a positive thing for current residents. In addition to softening tax bills for homeowners and lowering rents for renters, the new development and added tax base generates additional revenues for City services.

Every project will have supporters and detractors and messaging is central to both sides. Change is not always bad, and often times can have a tangible benefit to those who at first glance may not like the change being discussed.

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

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 or call us at 617-646-1000.

Welcome Chris Tracy!

img_6120This month O’Neill and Associates welcomes Chris Tracy to our community relations practice. As Senior Director, Chris will provide real estate development clients with valuable counsel on a variety of issues including community outreach, municipal relations, permitting, zoning, regulatory advocacy, and licensing. He has extensive experience working with communities and developers in the City of Boston and surrounding cities and towns. Chris knows how to identify key community stakeholders while also helping clients streamline the at-times arduous approval process by cutting through red tape and bureaucracy

Chris previously served as a senior project manager for the Boston Planning and Development Authority (BPDA), formerly known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), where he managed internal and external vetting processes for large-scale real estate commercial and residential development project throughout the City of Boston. His experience working across multi-agency issues concerning proposed developments and his collaboration with agencies to alleviate project concerns position him as an expert for our community relations and government affairs practice.

Chris earned his master’s in public administration from Northeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts in history from Boston College. To learn more about Chris visit Our Team page.

Urban Edge Launches Effort to Build Jackson Square Recreation Center

Olympic Gold Medalists Mike Eruzione and Kristine Lilly and Professional Athletes Chris Tierney and Emily Field Join Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for Official Campaign Kick Off

On Monday, March 21st, Mayor Marty Walsh and Olympic gold medalists Mike Eruzione, Kristine Lilly, and professional athletes Chris Tierney and Emily Field gathered with elected officials and civic and business leaders from the Jamaica Plain community to launch a campaign to build the Jackson Square Recreation Center in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. Urban Edge, based in Roxbury, is a community development organization committed to creating and sustaining stable, healthy, and diverse communities in both Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.

Urban Edge has spearheaded the process of building a facility that will provide recreational space and after school activities for children living in the Jamaica Plain and Roxbury neighborhoods. This two-story center will consist of a regulation-size ice rink on the first floor, a turf field on the second floor, and a space dedicated to academics and socializing.

The initial idea for the center came from the community, which recognized that young children living in this neighborhood did not have the same access to recreational facilities as their peers did living in suburban neighborhoods.

At the launch event at the Kelly Rink in Jamaica Plain, Mayor Marty Walsh stated, “I am proud that we are taking an idea from the residents of this neighborhood and partnering with Urban Edge to make it a reality.”

Urban Edge Jackson Sq

Rendering of Urban Edge’s Jackson Square Recreation Center

There are 26,000 young people who live within a 1.5 mile radius of Jackson Square, out of which only 10 percent participate in after school activities, mostly due to the absence of a safe, affordable, and accessible recreational space. That is why Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey team, has joined the campaign committee for the Jackson Square Recreation Center. “Their grades get better, they are more likely to stay in school, and, as importantly, they build teamwork skills, which I believe is critical to success. With this said, I am proud to be a part of the Campaign Committee that is working to build the Jackson Square Recreation Center,” said Eruzione.

The overall project cost totals $21.5 million, of which Urban Edge has already raised a little more than half. Still, the organization is seeking to raise the additional $10 million in funding. In addition to the support of the Jamaica Plain community, the project has gained backing from public officials, making this idea one step closer to reality.

To learn more about O’Neill and Associates’ nonprofit expertise, click here

Attorney General Healey Okays Framingham’s Plan to Rezone Downtown

Approval Will Allow Town to Move Forward with Transit-Oriented Development Plans

Choose FraminghamFramingham, Mass. (February 10, 2016) – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today approved plans by the Town of Framingham to rezone its Central Business District, Downtown Framingham.  The rezoning plans were approved on October 21, 2015 by Special Town Meeting members.  Town officials see the rezoning as critical to encouraging transit-oriented development (TOD) in Downtown Framingham, and will move their efforts forward to encourage this kind of residential development.

“Downtown Framingham is poised to reclaim its title as an important walkable, urban center for economic development in MetroWest and Greater Boston,” said Charlie Sisitsky, Chair of Framingham’s Board of Selectmen.  “The Town of Framingham is excited to offer in Metrowest an urban living experience to people who may be attracted to the Town’s small-town atmosphere and convenient proximity to Boston.  We anticipate this rezoning will attract new investment, new visitors, and new energy as we advance our transit-oriented development plans.”

On October 21st, by overwhelming numbers, Special Town Meeting members voted to support zoning changes to Framingham’s Central Business District with a goal to make Downtown Framingham an attractive, vibrant, diverse center that will be a hub of economic activity for the MetroWest region.  Previous zoning laws in the Town of Framingham discouraged developers from creating the kind of new units that appeal to young professionals and others who may otherwise be attracted to Framingham.

“Framingham residents are ready to take the next step in revitalizing Downtown Framingham as an important commercial center for Greater Boston,” said Bob Halpin, Town Manager of the Town of Framingham.  “Thank you to the Special Town Meeting members and other residents who were a part of this process.  With the Attorney General’s approval, we are eager to move forward.”

The strategy approved by the Town recommended making changes to the existing Central Business District zoning to encourage this development while also maintaining the neighborhood’s distinctive urban downtown.  Working with Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the Town performed a feasibility analysis for new development in Downtown to directly inform what the zoning regulations should specify to preserve the area’s character but allow enough growth to make it an attractive place to invest in.

With new residential and commercial development, the rezoning will ultimately increase the Town’s overall tax base while not placing an additional burden on Town services.  Based on development projections for three hypothetical parcels in the Downtown, the Town and MAPC project new development could accrue up to $1 million in additional commercial and residential property taxes for the Town of Framingham.

“Framingham’s commitment is to make Downtown Framingham an attractive option for developers planning TOD projects, in part by reducing the need for special permits, reducing parking requirements, allowing more flexible uses, and setting clear timelines for site plan review,” said Arthur Robert, Director of the Town of Framingham’s Community and Economic Development Division.   “The zoning changes allow for smaller projects, by right, with minor site plan review.  Design standards and guidelines will also contribute to predictability. Development projects will be designed with pedestrians in mind, to promote the area’s attractiveness, walkability, and support for transit alternatives.”

At the same time, the Town plans to preserve the historic nature of Downtown Framingham by setting controls – use variance prohibitions, height limits near residential districts, and design standards and guidelines – to help ensure that developments make sense for current residents and businesses.  Any new structure will require site plan review, which will give the Town an opportunity to work with the developer to ensure appropriate preservation measures.  Height limits will be considered where they may impact quality of life, but the Town will allow six story buildings to encourage density where it seems appropriate. The design standards will ensure quality construction and elements that are consistent with or complement existing structures.  Furthermore, the Town will utilize federal and state resources to preserve or reuse historic buildings in creative ways.

As part of the rezoning effort, the Special Town Meeting members and the Attorney General also approved revising the Central Business District boundary.  The new boundary represents an area within a ten minute walk to the Downtown commuter rail station, providing more TOD project options, and demonstrating the Town’s commitment to increasing TOD opportunities for Downtown Framingham.  The new boundaries also encompass some of the gateway entrances to the Downtown so as to ensure their consistency with the vision established for the area.

“We are pleased that Attorney General Healey has accepted the changes to Downtown Framingham that the Special Town Meeting members approved,” said Mike Gatlin, chair of the Town’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC).  “Residents are ready to make Framingham the next great Massachusetts TOD success story, and we are looking forward to working with developers to make that happen.”

For more information, please visit the Framingham Community and Economic Development website ( or contact the Division of Community and Economic Development at (508) 532-5455.

CEDAC’s Summer 2015 Newsletter

Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) released its Summer 2015 newsletter this week where they summarize their recent policy work regarding affordable housing preservation, give updates on the Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Fund, provide important news about their staff and their exciting rebranding, and release their schedule of events and activities for the fall.  Read the full Summer 2015 newsletter here!

CEDAC, a client of O’Neill and Associates, has served as a vital resource for organizations engaged in community development for 37 years.  The public private agency provides financial resources and technical expertise for community-based and other non-profit organizations engaged in effective community development in Massachusetts. Through its affiliate, the Children’s Investment Fund, and the Commonwealth Workforce Coalition, CEDAC’s work supports three key building blocks of community development: affordable housing, workforce development, and early care and education.  Learn more about CEDAC at