Here's how Boston hopes to convert empty offices into apartments

A nearly empty downtown office building on March 13, 2020 in Boston. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A nearly empty downtown office building on March 13, 2020 in Boston. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

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The sun is back, but flood warnings remain in effect today for much of the Connecticut River Valley after yesterday’s heavy rain. Five communities in Massachusetts, including North Adams and Deerfield, declared a state of emergency.

Still, the impact here pales in comparison to the flooding in Vermont, where the capital’s downtown is literally underwater. Scroll below for more on the Vermont flooding, which officials are likening to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

But let’s start today’s news back here in the Massachusetts capital:

Why not convert those empty Boston office buildings into apartments? It’s a common question in our post-pandemic world, amid lots of newly empty (or underused) office space and a chronic housing shortage. Other cities show it can be done, but zoning, plumbing and physical layout complicate matters. So, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is offering a carrot to downtown building owners who give the conversion a try: a big property tax break.

  • Wu’s office announced a new program that would give owners up to a 75% tax break for three decades if they convert underutilized office buildings into apartments. Boston Planning Chief Arthur Jemison said the public-private partnership aims to kickstart “a new, mixed-use neighborhood Downtown,” while producing much-needed housing.
  • It’s a one-time-only offer: Wu’s office plans to begin accepting conversion applications this fall through June 2024.
  • The requirements: Projects must comply with the city’s affordability rules and new “stretch” energy efficiency standards. They also have to start construction by October 2025 — or else pay back taxes. (The city will also get a 2% cut on any future sale of the property to help make up for the foregone taxes.)
  • How does an office-to-apartment conversion actually work? This Planet Money episode gets into the nitty-gritty.

Get the word out: Boston is expanding a program that offers free healthy meals to residents 18 and under at community sites across the city. The program — called Boston Summer Eats — requires no registration or ID and is intended for the kids of immigrants and refugees who don’t qualify for state or federal programs.

  • Find a location: The city will have over 100 Boston Summer Eats sites, including 22 farmer’s markets, this summer. They’re also not limited to Boston. See the full statewide map of sites here.

Madonna fans will have to wait a bit longer for the singer to come to Boston. TD Garden announced yesterday her two Boston concerts this August will be postponed, after Madonna was hospitalized by a bacterial infection late last month.

  • If you bought a ticket, hold on to it. TD Garden officials say it will still be good for the rescheduled concerts (likely in 2024).

Woo! The city of Worcester is rolling out its own 311 mobile app today, “a one-stop resource for all non-emergency questions.” Worcester officials say the app — which complements the city’s weekday-only 311 phone hotline — will allow residents to submit 24/7 reports about things like potholes, trash and graffiti. Download it here.

Democratic socialists in disarray: Cambridge state Rep. Mike Connolly isn’t giving the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America the chance to expel him. As Politico first reported yesterday, Connolly is leaving the Boston DSA after the group unveiled plans to vote to expel him over his support of some more moderate Democrats.

  • What he’s saying: “What’s the point of continuing with an organization whose new leadership has made it clear they oppose seeking common ground with state leaders or building broader coalitions that actually benefit our constituents,” Connolly told WBUR’s Amy Sokolow in an interview, adding that such coalition-building is necessary to pass policies like rent control.
  • What the DSA says: In a statement, the Boston DSA said the motion to expel Connolly was introduced by some members, not the chapter’s elected leadership.

P.S.— A fellow Bay Stater (no, not Jack Lepiarz) will be on “America’s Got Talent” again tonight. Fitchburg resident Lavender Darcangelo, a 27-year-old blind, autistic singer, will try to impress the judges on tonight’s 8 p.m episode on NBC. And hey, if she can win over a Bruins crowd, I’m sure she can win over Simon Cowell.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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