The visual evidence of Boston’s approach to planning and development, from preserving its historic character to planning for the future, showcases the city’s best assets. One of the nation’s greenest cities, Boston is a biotech hub and has one of the most improved public education systems in the country. City officials are focused on new ways of thinking and new strategies to take Boston into the future.
For more than 50 years, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has guided the city’s comprehensive approach to planning, economic development, and workforce development. It has generated innovative and sustainable plans that allow the city’s neighborhoods and residents to flourish. Boston is one of the few cities where planning and economic development work together as one agency, a formula that has been essential to making it a world-class city.
The city’s development pipeline contains $12 billion of investment in all sectors of the economy, including unprecedented growth in Boston’s institutions. Twenty-six projects currently under construction total 4 million square feet (372,000 sq m) of development. While the credit market has presented challenges for a few development projects, city officials and development professionals continue to identify strategies, tools, and resources needed to keep Boston moving forward.
The city is currently working on a new strategy to unlock the untapped potential of the South Boston Waterfront by creating innovation clusters. Architects and developers will be challenged to experiment with new designs, floor plans, and materials to provide live/work opportunities to entrepreneurs and affordable cohousing for researchers. This new district, made up of more than 1,000 acres (400 ha) of prime real estate, will push the limits of modern design and development by combining space for recreation, dining, retailers, offices, research, and housing in an effort to create a vibrant 24-hour neighborhood.
Boston is setting the precedent for sustainability practices. From its first-in the-nation Green Building Zoning Code requiring all large projects to be certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, to the city’s green tech business manager who helps small and medium-sized businesses operate more efficiently, to the millions of dollars that Boston programs have allocated to train residents for green jobs, Beantown is turning into “Greentown.”
Boston in December 2008 created Boston Invests in Growth, a $69.7 million loan pool designed to jump-start stalled commercial construction projects, create jobs, and strengthen Boston’s economy. Made possible through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 108 funding, it provides mezzanine financing for projects that have both permanent financing and equity already in place. A Boston Invests loan recently enabled a W Hotel to open its doors; the $243 million mixed-use project includes 235 hotel rooms, 123 residential condominiums, 5,000 square feet (465 sq m) of meeting space, a restaurant, retail space, and underground parking, and it has added hundreds of jobs to the local economy. In the works are several additional loans to other projects that will significantly benefit the city’s neighborhoods.
Just as downtown remains a top priority, Boston’s neighborhoods and its people are its strength. The city has worked tirelessly since the late 1990s to help homeowners and tenants weather the foreclosure crisis. The Foreclosure Intervention Team was created to get foreclosed properties in the most affected areas back on the market. The city is working directly with banks to buy foreclosed houses and is committed to protecting the needs of both homeowners and renters.
By strengthening neighborhoods, enhancing sustainability, creating jobs, investing in the young, educated workforce, and keeping working families in their homes, Boston is entering a new era of shared innovation. As the host city of the Urban Land Institute Real Estate Summit at the Spring Council Forum, April 14 to 16, we look forward to working together to create an even brighter future.