Riding the wave of the city’s largest building boom in a half-century, Brian Golden, the chief of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, expects no let-up in the break-neck pace of new construction starts across the city. He also foresees more tall cranes and excavators in Dorchester’s near future.
There were 14 million square feet of new construction added onto the pipeline in 2015 – a number not seen since the “go-go” days of urban renewal, said Golden, when whole neighborhoods were flattened by his early predecessors.
Golden anticipates that the new year could well soar past the 2015 pipeline mark with a flurry of green-lit projects and new letters of intent for large scale developments, best known in planning and civic circles by their bureaucratic moniker: “Article 80s.”
“It’s an exhausting pace because we’re not just about the business of managing the biggest building boom in the city’s history, but we’re also doing more aggressive comprehensive planning than we’ve done in many years,” said Golden, 50, in an interview with the Reporter. “You’d have to go back a couple of decades before you saw the pace of planning that’s occurring here and that’s in direct response to the mayor’s goal of making the BRA not just Boston’s major real estate development agency but also the planning agency. There’s been a lot of external criticism that planning got short shrift. And this mayor wants to do bona fide comprehensive as well as granular planning at the same time so that we keep a very positive development climate.
Still, Golden isn’t sitting easy on his ninth floor Boston City Hall perch. In fact, he’s a bit anxious, already bracing for the inevitable downturn in the economy and fretting that its largesse will dry up before saturating the outlying neighborhoods where Article 80s are counted with fingers, not Excel tables.
“We’re closer to the end of this economic recovery than the beginning, that’s for sure,” said the former state representative from Allston-Brighton who joined the BRA as a deputy in 2009. “The average life expectancy of a post World War II recovery is 7-8 years. We’re knocking on the door. We want to make sure we get as much value for the people of Boston in as many neighborhoods as we can while this window is still open.”
The window that Golden grasps has widened enough to incorporate “distinct parts of Dorchester” that are poised for major growth: Columbia Point, long stretches of Dorchester Avenue, and the Fairmount line corridor, which could finally flush new dollars, housing units, and jobs into Mattapan and project-starved, lower-income sections of Dorchester as well.
When pressed on whether the Dorchester section of Dorchester Avenue will get the same kind of granular planning effort that is now underway for its northernmost stretch in South Boston, Golden was non-committal. There are “a dozen areas” that could be next in line for such an intense planning exercise, he said. “But today we’re not ready to identify what’s next. That involves a lot of voices and heads in the building.
Something will be said in the near term, he added.
“The way we look at this is: Where is there a really serious appetite for development that we need to get ahead of so we’re providing a well planned context for these development that people are seeking to effect.”
On the flip side, Golden said, there are places in the city where the building climate is so relatively stagnate that he needs to balance the agency’s efforts by focusing energy in those places – “maybe to yield zoning relief”— to prod developer interests.
Read Full Article: BRA chief sees robust growth ahead for Dot in ’16 | Dorchester Reporter