By Seth Daniel
The state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has approved the six-year extension of 14 urban renewal districts in the City of Boston – per request of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) – and the state agency has an eye to the future of those areas.
While the public debate at the City level took place early last spring, and was approved by the Boston City Council in March, the ultimate say on the extension lies with the state, which has oversight of the BRA.
On Aug. 3, after a public hearing in April, and months of consideration, a plan with stipulations was granted by DHCD.
The 14 areas included Brunswick-King, Campus High School, CBD Boylston-Essex, CBD School-Franklin, CBD South Station, Charlestown, Fenway, Government Center, Kittredge Square, Park Plaza, South Cove, South End, Washington Park and Downtown Waterfront.
The BRA said it was pleased with the decision, offering comment early this week.
“We’re very pleased to have cleared this final hurdle in the approval process so that we can maintain the use of these critical tools for another six years,” said Nick Martin of the BRA. “After shepherding more than a year and a half of public engagement on the topic of urban renewal, we consider this to be a successful outcome. The feedback we received from community members, elected officials, the state, and other stakeholders will allow us to use urban renewal tools in a more thoughtful and accountable manner as we work to continue to create vibrant neighborhoods for the people of Boston.”
However, there has been a great deal of criticism of the renewal in the neighborhoods such as the South End and Fenway, where many don’t believe Urban Renewal powers are necessary any longer due to the strength of those thriving neighborhoods.
DHCD seemed to be very aware of that in their stipulations to the BRA.
“Within three years of the date of this approval, BRA will submit to DHCD a proposal for what the BRA intends to do with its Urban Renewal Plans over the remaining years of the six-year extension,” read the letter of approval.
It ordered the BRA to describe a timetable for sunsetting applicable Urban Renewal Plans, to create an analysis as to whether the Urban Renewal Areas should remain as drawn or be modified, and to submit a framework and timetable for action in any Urban Renewal Plan Areas where the BRA is proposing or not proposing to seek an additional extension after the six years are up.
Additionally, as with the City Council’s stipulations, DHCD has required the BRA to, within two year, catalog all Land Disposition Agreements within Urban Renewal Areas, develop a plan to manage those agreements, catalog all BRA owned land within the areas and develop a plan by which the BRA will manage those properties.
DHCD has also required the BRA to give notice of any major or minor modifications within an Urban Renewal Area.
A final safeguard, among other smaller ones, is that the BRA must notify the DHCD if it plans to sell BRA property and that sale will displace persons living there.
The new extension in the 14 areas will expire on April 22, 2022.