Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced this week that the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is not only changing its name, but changing its business practices and approach with communities affected by the unprecedented real estate development boom Boston is currently experiencing. The BRA’s new moniker is the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and will still be led by Brian Golden, a post he has held the past two years.
The BRA’s reputation has long been a thorn in its side, as some people still view the BRA as an eminent domain wielding steamroller because of the razing and redevelopment of the West End neighborhood during the heyday of “urban renewal” decades ago. Among the reforms cited by the Mayor is more emphasis on planning and community input. Both developers and community members agree that more emphasis on planning should provide welcome certainty to the sometimes uncertain development process.
The role of the community in the review of proposed redevelopment projects is a hot button issue. Some argue that not-in my-backyarders are too frequently allowed to derail and unduly delay worthy projects. Others contend that the current community process consists of dog and pony shows that attempt to merely placate communities without substantively addressing their concerns. While this debate is not likely to go away soon, it will be interesting to observe the evolution of BPDA and its effect on the Boston development and permitting process.