Boston advances plan to overhaul its redevelopment agency

Mayor Michelle Wu's plan to revamp how the city develops properties got strong backing from the Boston City Council on Wednesday. The body approved a home-rule petition to dismantle the Boston Planning and Redevelopment Authority and recreate it as a department within Wu's purview.

The council voted 11-2 to support the plan. Once Wu signs the petition, it will next go to the Massachusetts Legislature, which must approve the change.

Speaking after the council meeting, Wu said reimagining the agency, along with reforming the city's zoning code, would lead to a "modernization" of the organization's mission.

"So rather than keep us pinned to a 1950s, 1960s era focus on getting rid of so-called urban blight and decay, this is about saying we're going to use the full force of city government to address the needs that we have today " Wu said.

The proposal would abolish the current authority and a Economic Development and Industrial Corporation, and create a new Boston Planning and Redevelopment Agency in the mayor's office. That new agency would assume the roles and responsibilities of the quasi-independent bodies. It would also absorb the staff from each.

The move would also formalize the end of the Urban Renewal era in Boston by eliminating those powers from the new agency. Urban Renewal in Boston, which gathered steam in the post-war decades, flattened Scollay Square for Government Center, and razed the West End, displacing tens of thousands of residents along the way. The era is characterized by the Brutalist movement, a significant architectural style that has been pilloried as ugly and cold by the public.

The vote to reform the city's major redevelopment organization was just one victory for Wu on Wednesday. The City Council also approved her proposed home-rule petition to institute a version of rent control in Boston. Both that proposal and the push to dissolve the BPDA were central themes in Wu's State of the City address earlier this year.


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Roberto Scalese Senior Editor, Digital
Roberto Scalese is a senior editor for digital.



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