- The Boston Planning & Development Agency has begun the development process for a new master zoning plan in the city's downtown, according to The Boston Globe.
- The project is anticipated to cost $600,000 and take two years to complete, with the final plan due in 2020. It will put a larger focus on affordable housing, public spaces, sustainability and mobility.
- The agency sent out a request for proposals this week and will hire consultants to devise the plan. It expects to begin public outreach this fall.
Cities' makeup changes at a rapid pace and previous visions must be updated to stay relevant. A lot has changed in Boston over the past 30 years, which is how long it has been since the last downtown master plan went into effect. Still, the city's planning agency anticipates that the process will provide tweaks to downtown's zoning as opposed to a complete overhaul.
Boston, like many cities, has found its business center transforming into an area with many mixed-use development as people increasingly have moved into the city center. Downtown also has a different mix of retailers and other businesses than it used to. The updated master plan will tackle establishing consistent building guidelines in the changing area, which should alleviate at least some of the conflicts over use, height and development effects on historic structures.
Also like other cities, Boston is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis. Leaders have launched or joined numerous initiatives to address the problem, such as 14 cities and towns in the metro area forming a regional housing partnership, and Mayor Marty Walsh being named as the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Community Development and Housing chair. The zoning master plan RFP lists affordable housing as one of the project's priorities.
Sustainability and examining the environmental effects of development also are focus areas. That's a smart move for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is Boston's susceptibility to rising sea levels and street flooding during storms. The city has had its share of that experience in recent months with a string of Nor'easters causing storm surge to flood downtown, renewing calls for a $10 million seawall in Boston Harbor.