The Advisory Group formed to aid in rezoning initiatives along the Harrison Albany Corridor held its last working meeting Thursday morning, signaling the beginning of the end of a two-year project aimed at spurring development in the area.
By September, the Boston Redevelopment Authority hopes to have a final plan in place laying out a series of proposed zoning and transportation changes designed to guide future growth. The plan will be presented to the public during a community meeting not yet scheduled.
A major component of the plan will be a series of zoning changes including higher building heights for development projects that satisfy certain criteria. In the New York Streets area, the base height would be raised to 100 feet and projects larger than one acre designated as PDA’s (Planned Development Areas) would be able to build up to 150 feet - 200 feet along the interstate.
In order to qualify a project as a PDA, a development team must submit detailed zoning plans including specifics on open space and parking, said Alexa Pinard of the BRA. The process includes a 45-day public comment period.
On Thursday, the BRA proposed allowing taller building heights and higher density to PDA’s that provide additional affordable housing or affordable commercial space. Affordable units would have to be located on site and comprise 20 percent of the building’s residential units. Affordable commercial space, which would be rent-free for qualifying start-ups and small businesses, would have to comprise 5 percent of the project’s bonus square footage.
In addition, PDA’s would be required to designate 20 percent of the lot to public open space. Suggestions in the BRA proposal include public thruways such as private ways, alleys or pedestrian walkways, all of which would be open to the public but owned and maintained by the developer.
The requirements, while still in draft form, represent a first for the City of Boston, according to Randi Lathrop of the BRA.
“We don’t know about this in any other cities,” she said of the option to provide affordable commercial space for start-ups. “Boston could be groundbreaking on this.”
Zoning changes proposed on Thursday are still in draft form and could change before September’s public meeting. Specifically, the BRA is studying whether to allow building heights of up to 100 feet in portions of the Back Streets neighborhood, a change stakeholders have asked for repeatedly.
The plan will also include proposed short and long-term transportation changes outlined in a meeting in February.
On Thursday, several advisory group members lauded the BRA for taking stakeholder comments seriously while forming the plan. If approved by the BRA Board and Boston Zoning Commission, zoning changes could take effect by the end of the calendar year.
"I'd like to thank everybody," said group member Bob Walsh. "Now let's get on to the next step, which is memorializing this in the zoning code."