The Boston Redevelopment Authority Is Getting A New Name

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(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Boston Redevelopment Authority is reinventing itself, debuting a new look and name that the agency's executive director says more accurately reflects its mission.

The BRA, which has been overseeing development in the city since it was created in 1957, will begin calling itself the Boston Planning and Development Agency as of Tuesday.

“We think that by highlighting the actual functions of the organization, we’re contributing to a broader public understanding of what it is that we do,” Executive Director Brian Golden said following a briefing held Monday at Continuum, the creative agency hired by the city to develop the new image. "We are the city’s planning arm, and the city’s development arm, and if you just looked at the old label — Boston Redevelopment Authority — it didn’t tell you much about how much of our effort is focused on sound planning that can accommodate future development. So simply put, this name tells the story clearly."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's administration has been overhauling the agency since a 2014 audit discovered problems, including the failure to collect millions of dollars in rent. Over the years, the BRA had developed a reputation as a heavy-handed bureaucracy that favored developers over the wishes of neighborhoods.

Golden says the rebranding effort is more than just a name change. He says it also signals the cultural shift that has taken place at the agency.

“For the last two years, we’ve spent a lot of time on internal, operational reforms,” Golden said. “The BRA had substandard business systems, and we’ve spent a lot of time fixing those over the past two years.”

Golden says it’s important to the agency and Mayor Walsh that the Boston Planning and Development Agency do a better job fixing its relationships with the neighborhoods and the people of Boston.

“There are still far too many people, far too many community organizations that view the organization negatively, and we think that by emphasizing planning, by being in the neighborhoods talking about planning, receiving meaningful input from the people of Boston, and adopting planning documents that can accommodate quality future development, we will have greater public support, greater legitimacy and greater credibility,” Golden said.

While the agency pushes its new look and new name, its legal name will remain as is, since it would likely take an act of the state Legislature change it.

Agency officials are hoping to engage citizens at all levels of city planning, not just at hearings for large developments.

While not ready for Tuesday's roll out of the agency's new name, the Boston Planning and Development Agency is hoping later this year to release an app that will allow citizens to more easily engage in a dialogue with the agency about neighborhood planning and development.

Correction: The headline on an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Boston Redevelopment Authority as the Boston Redevelopment Agency. We regret the error.

This segment aired on September 27, 2016.


Steve Brown Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.



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