Community Health & Environment Transportation

PLAN: Downtown Development Scenarios Workshop Invites Broad Community Discussion

PLAN: Downtown Workshop brings dozens to discuss growth and preservation balances in the downtown Boston area.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) invited the Downtown and Chinatown communities to the PLAN: Downtown Development Scenarios workshop on Thursday night at Suffolk University.

The first scenario is a growth-based model, with density bonuses based on a common baseline height established across Downtown. The second scenario is preservation and growth-balanced, with density bonuses based on varied heights determined by Character Area. In both scenarios, developers would be incentivized to contribute to a public-benefit fund to add capacity through the density bonuses.

Two discussion periods were held followed by reports back on the two presented scenarios. Reaction to both scenarios were largely mixed, with the “preservation” scenario gathering somewhat more support.

Concerns voiced by residents included street/curb usage, street directionality, pedestrian mobility, lighting guidelines, affordable housing, environmental factors, transport challenges, parking concerns, the future of Washington St and potentially extending a portion of the “Character Area” to include the Old State House as well as the old South Meeting House.

Chinatown residents called for increased awareness put towards building height/overall preservation efforts and floated the idea of a network of greenery and sculptural art showcasing the history and culture of the neighborhood.

“It’s important that we protect the elements which define Boston as a city: the character of Downtown, the Ladder Blocks, and the Wharf District.” said one resident. Another added,”sea level rise shouldn’t be overlooked, and has to be considered as a priority in this process.”.

Officials said no new shadows will be imposed on the Common or Public Garden. Urban Design Guidelines were covered as well, focusing on the organization of several key components including site/building design as well as elements affecting the public realm.

The next steps in the process will make use of two updates produced by the discussion: The planning team will work on locating an Affordable Housing Growth Area” within Chinatown as well as revisit height limitations and boundary locations in the Character Preservation Areas.

A Draft Document is expected for Late-April/Early May with a public meeting to be scheduled. The full presentation can be accessed here. The next three Advisory Group Meetings are scheduled for February 26, March 18th and April 29.