Congrats to the proponents of Article 89 in the City of Boston, the Urban Agriculture Rezoning Initiativepassed the Zoning Commission meeting this morning and heads to Mayor Menino’s desk for his signature. Article 89(click to read text of the article) allows urban farming, on a small scale, citywide both on the ground level and at the rooftop level. This also opens up the opportunity for urban farmers to now open up a farmstand anywhere retail is permitted and conditional upon city review in any other location.
It was attempted in Barry’s Corner in Alston last year but Related Beal Co has succeeded where others before it have failed. The condo’s connected to the Lovejoy Wharf Project (delapidated warehouse next to the TD Garden) will now be exempt from the parking requirement that has been a burden on developers for years. The requirement that all new condo projects must have adequate parking, now often sitting half empty and underutilized, has been excused for this project after a BRA vote on Thursday night.
Take a look at Related Beal Co’s Notice of Project Change filed with the BRA back in September.
Congratulations go out to Related Beal Co and the BRA for taking this bold step to test whether the “carless” condo can work in Boston as it does now in New York.
With Mayor Menino’s term as mayor nearing an end, developers are rushing their projects forward to receive a final approval while Menino’s BRA is still in place before the uncertainty of a new mayor takes hold.
I just finishing following along with the BRA Board meeting (something that can now be done online on the BRA’s website). They approved $375 Million dollars in new construction including changes to existing plans and new developments to existing hotels.
A full list of detailed BRA approvals can be found here, but they include…
To kick off the series on Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in Massachusetts, I’ll focus quickly on a major project, years in the making, that is transforming a former rail yard and small strip mall into a whole new micro-community on the waterfront of Somerville. Assembly Row is the largest transit oriented development currently ongoing in the state and arguably one of the largest physical construction projects ongoing right now.
I was afforded the opportunity to listen to the Don Briggs of Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRT) speak about the trials and tribulations of building a project as extensive as this one in such a populous urban area. Don spoke at this weeks Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance annual conference giving those in attendance the chance to hear his experiences with this project.
Assembly Row was started when FRT purchased a large strip mall on one side of the current project. They then purchased land from IKEA who was proposing to build their own store on the site. Their next major hurdle involved a strip of parkland located on the waterfront that was owned by the state. It sat vacant and was being used as a public boat storage lot. FRT coordinated a land swap which allowed them to take this land from the state to expand their development project to the water while, at the same time, building a more easily accessible waterfront park as part of Assembly Row.
Like any good transit oriented development, you have to have transit and in this case, the orange line went through the land but never stopped there. To solve this, FRT decided to, and got permission to build the first new MBTA subway stop in nearly three decades. The cost of the stop alone is over $50 Million, much of which has been covered by the State (stepping up with some $35 mil after the Federal Government backed out after the economic collapse).
Urban Land Institute in combination with PWC have released their annual, and very well respected forecast for 2014 real estate in the US. Their report shows a promising outlook to commercial real estate development in 2014 and beyond with Boston maintaining a similar level of growth as it did in 2013. For the third straight year Boston joins a growing list of cities with real estate investment prospects either at a “good” or “better” level.
The report attributes some of the largest drivers behind this prediction to be continuing loosening of lending restrictions as well as the movement of Generation Y’ers as well as empty nest baby boombers growing desires to move into more urban areas.
Here’s a link to the report, it’s a bit lengthy but starts with a great synopsis on the first few pages.
HYM Investment Group’s master plan for the redevelopment of the hulking Government Center garage has been approved. The garage has served as a barricade between the cities West End and the rest of downtown for years. Construction cannot start with the approval of the master plan and must await the approval of each individual structure (there will be 6 in all). Developer Thomas O’Brien is hopeful to start construction by the end of 2014.
“Transit-oriented development, or TOD, is an approach to development that focuses land uses around a transit station or within a transit corridor. Typically, it is characterized by: (Source: Mass.gov’s Smart Growth Tool Kit)
Looks like business leaders and community organizers in Newton and Needham are working on plans of their own to try and lure tech companies with shorter commutes, cheaper rents, and potentially just as good a quality of life… if it’s done right. The initiative is one similar to what business and civic leaders in Quincy and Watertownare working to build and potentially one that could attract young, early stage startups with the promise of cheaper office rents and cheaper costs of living.
N2 Innovation Corridor would redevelop the area around Needham Crossing and the Wells Avenue Executive Park into a center for innovation and start up development.
While I am encouraged that this type of development could compete against the Seaport, Kendall Square and Watertown and Quincy’s newest developments, it’s important that they do this right and go all in. To compete with what has been developed in some of these downtown neighborhoods, there needs to be something outside of just offices. Coffee shops, bars, restaurants, sandwich shops. Places to walk outside and spend a nice summer day doing work outside will be important to any eventual success of N2 Innovation Corridor. I’m looking forward to seeing how this project progresses further as it could prove to be a benefit to both metro-west and to early stage start-ups who may find the Boston and Cambridge Office Market a bit too pricey.
Samuels continues their major development of the Fenway Neighborhood and is in the midst of construction on an 8-story, 232K sq ft office building banking on the neighborhood being in incredible demand at the completion of the project in 2015. Advisors at CBRE have the space pegged as some of the priciest in the city beating out even the average price of the 7th priciest street in the country for office space in the Back Bay section of Boylston Street. Estimates range from $60 all the way up to as high as $80/ sq ft for this premium office space in Boston’s fastest growing neighborhood.
If your business is looking for a high quality of life for your employees with a feel far different than that of the Financial District or Back Bay, Fenway may just be the place to go. With new shopping centers, restaurants and bars opening up seemingly every month, the area is poised to become Boston’s hottest neighborhood to live, work and play (if it isn’t there already).
UPDATE ON THE HOUSE BILL 1859, “AN ACT PROMOTING THE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT OF SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES”
Last week I attended a very informative but brief hour long lunch seminar updating the movement and changes to this bill as it winds its way through the Massachusetts Legislature. Benjamin Fierro of Lynch and Fierro represented the Home Builders Association of Massachusetts and expressed a few of his concerns with elements of the bill, expressing his doubts that the bill would actually serve its main purpose of streamlining the permitting process in cities and towns. Jay Wickersham represented the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, along with Jeff Lacey fact checking from the audience at the end of the presentation, presenting his argument as to why this bill is better than the previous proposed amendments to 40A and cited the major advantages this would bring for both local developers and community residents alike.
Much of the debate focused on whether or not the proposed addition of a section 40Y would actually streamline some of the municipal permitting process as it’s mission plan states. From the draft of the amendment, 40Y looks provide an opt-in measure for communities to charge smart growth impact fees to developers to further provide for sustainable community development while at the same time allowing for by-right housing and commercial development in smart-growth locations.
Another major section of debate is section 21 of the bill instituting Development Impact Fees. These fees are commonly used across the country by municipalities to help defer the costs of necessary infrastructure that new and large scale development projects that often fall on strained community budgets. Massachusetts has difficult case law surrounding these fees which has said that courts cannot allocate added school costs and additional municipal facilities expenses to developers as development impact fees.
The proposed legislation would aim to allow this type of impact fee to be imposed and cites advantages for both the community as a whole and the developer. The argument that this is an advantage for a developer is that it provides greater good will in the community for the developer as well as avoiding long and costly special permitting processes by granting more as-of-right permits.
The final question of the day asked about the status of this bill as it moves through the Massachusetts Legislature. It appears that an amended version of House Bill 1859 should be put to a vote before the end of this legislative session in the Spring of 2014.
If you’d like to read more about some of the other measures proposed in House Bill 1859, please see my previous blog which includes a summary written by one of the bills drafters, Jeff Lacey AICP.
I’d like to also thank the Boston Bar Association, Benjamin Fierro, Jay Wickersham and Johanna Schneider for another great BBA event.
Interesting piece in The Atlantic today with a fairly obvious but a real “nailed it right on the head” statement from a mid-sized American city mayor as to the attraction and draw of cities with similar geography and population to Burlington, VT.
I was particularly interested in your recent story about Burlington. I believe there is a new class of city emerging across the country which are positioned to succeed in the coming decade – a class of city that has not yet been identified on a national scale.
This city is a small/mid-sized regional center. The population range I have been studying are cites between 50-125k. These cities are defined by natural beauty, outdoor recreation, strong and supportive arts community, entrepreneurial spirit, progressive outlook, and a strong sense of place and ethos connected to the place people choose to live. Cities like Burlington, Asheville, Flagstaff, Bend, Missoula, Santa Fe, Provo, and Duluth.
These cities are all at least a couple hours outside of the major metro in their area, which affords them their own character and identity. They are popular destinations for the metro – primarily tourism, but increasingly companies are coming to realize they can locate in these small cities and find the talent they need to find. Because this is where the talent wants to live.
Looks like we may be two years away from hoping on a train in Copley Square and, in 10 minutes, with no changes, being dropped off in the heart of Boston’s newest neighborhood. According to MassDOT secretary Richard Davey, the plan is to use existing tracks that are already in place and to connect with the MBTA tracks that run into Back Bay Station.
It looks like the likelihood of this plan going through is fairly high as there is little construction that would need to be done and MassDOT already has travel rights on most of the existing track. Good news for an area crying out for better public transit to avoid the traffic jams the area has seen of late.
Happy Friday. Happy Fall. Happy Weekend. Oh, and happy Park(ing) Day.
PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. This first metered space lasted for, well the same amount of time anyone else could have parked their car there, two hours.
Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals (operating independently of Rebar but following an established set of guidelines) creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world.
The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.
With Boston's recent acquisition of Parklets in neighborhoods around the city, the concept of Park(ing) Day is clearly becoming one that is no longer just a day. It raises awareness of the need to keep and maintain the open spaces in Urban Centers as well as to focus on the importance of creating new open and outdoor spaces as urban centers continue to expand.
While were on the subject of keeping and maintaining green space, please check out the Land Conservation and Advocacy Trust and support their mission of aiding communities in their battles to maintain these open spaces.
Starting a dialogue on the future of urban living in Boston and beyond.