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Boston: A Master Plan

The following is an excerpt from our Fall 2016 South End Stakeholders' Report, a report on the state of the South End real estate market and a glimpse into life in our neighborhood. You can download the full report here.

In 2014 the City of Boston and Mayor Walsh published an ambitious plan titled “Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030.” It is part of what is known today as Imagine Boston 2030, an effort to pull together Boston’s first comprehensive citywide master plan in 50 years. The process is meant to provide a long-term vision of the physical city including housing, transportation, open spaces, development, and more. 

Boston’s population is expected to grow by 15% in the next decade and a half, reaching 709,000 people by 2030, the city’s highest level since the 1950s when people left in droves for the surrounding suburbs. The mayor envisions $21 billion in public and private investment owing into the city, adding 53,000 housing units by that time, a 20% increase from existing levels.

A number of incentives will be put in place which are intended to drive down development costs and stimulate the market, including zoning relief, permitting reform, tax incentives, modifications to the Inclusionary Development Policy, and a more efficient use of city-owned land. While the majority of the planned housing will be in the middle-income sector, the construction of an additional 16,000 student housing units would cut the total number of students living off-campus and in the private rental market by 50%. The city would also increase annual funding for low-income housing by 65%, to $51 million.

As of March of this year, the city is on target to meet its goals. A total of 35,808 new units of housing have either been completed or are in the development process. The first quarter of 2016 saw more than 2,000 new units representing $1.4 billion in new investment approved by the city, resulting in an active development pipeline of 18,644 units. The housing sector is seeing more construction employment than at any time in the last 20 years. 

The Imagine Boston 2030 master plan also calls for several additional growth initiatives. Go Boston 2030 outlines objectives for increasing public transit usage and efficiency. Boston Creates is a 15-month long cultural planning process to beautify Boston. Greenovate Boston aims to make all facets of the city more environmentally friendly. Residents are encouraged to submit innovative ideas for consideration through social media, messaging, and the official Imagine Boston 2030 website. The entire affair is a grand experiment in crowdsourcing what Bostonians want for themselves, their community, and the entire region, establishing a fair and predictable framework for project approval.

The last time a City of Boston master plan was introduced was in 1965 and it laid forth the general processes, policies, and provisions for the city through 1975. It encompassed the construction of Government Center, City Hall Plaza, 80 new public schools and the New England Aquarium, the development of the Boston Harbor Islands, the expansion and modernization of MBTA subway stops, and the revitalization of Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Coincidentally, 2030 is the Hub’s 400th birth year. What better way to celebrate than to jumpstart the continued evolution of Boston, a city that John Winthrop predicted would come to be emulated by other municipalities? 

Sources: “Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030” City of Boston, BostInno, Boston Globe

Find this story and more in our Fall 2016 South End Stakeholders' Report. Read all about the latest real estate trends, forecasts, and an in-depth look at the South End community.

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