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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

Boston development boom spells opportunity for preservationists

May 28th, 2015  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

We’re living in Boston at a pivotal time. The city is experiencing one of the city’s most extensive development booms in history. If you feel like the skyline is in a near-constant state of change – you’d be right. According to Boston Redevelopment Authority spokesman Nicholas Martin, the amount of new office, lab, residential, and retail space currently under construction has nearly quadrupled to 15.6 million square feet, up from 4.5 million in 2012. In 2014, the BRA approved 62 projects across the city, totaling more than $3 billion.

Additionally, Mayor Walsh last week introduced Imagine Boston 2030, a public engagement initiative to create a comprehensive city plan for the lead up to Boston’s 400th birthday. Though still in its beginning stages, this announcement  indicates that City Hall is promoting  thoughtful, community-focused development throughout the city and seeking enhanced citizen engagement beyond debates on individual projects.

While this rapid pace of development certainly poses some challenges to preservationists, such dialogue about Boston’s urban fabric and city planning presents a unique opportunity. As David Eisen pointed out in the Boston Globe this week, “There are important commercial corridors and underutilized industrial areas that would benefit from new housing, businesses, and medical or college expansion. And there are wonderful smaller scaled neighborhoods whose character should be protected.” Eisen, a principal at Abacus Architects + Planners, also calls for rewritten zoning and streamlining procedures to support development while ensuring that it meets high standards, noting that “growth versus preservation battles should not have to be fought on a parcel by parcel basis.” This planning process should identify areas where new development would better meet our needs, and those where protection of existing fabric is of greater value to the city’s continued success.

At the Alliance, we’re constantly talking about the ways that old and new can coexist beautifully and functionally. In fact, we’re looking forward to sharing a few of these examples with you in the coming weeks when we introduce our 2015 Preservation Achievement Award winners. We have the chance to make Boston a model for older cities looking to undergo renewal in a way that strengthens the city, contributes positively to its citizens and incorporates our historic heritage. Successful preservation and adaptive reuse projects thoughtfully integrated with new construction are crucial components of a comprehensive city plan – and will provide the character and distinctiveness we should maintain in Boston in 2030. We welcome the opportunity to participate in this process.

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