Building Boston: Understanding the BPDA Process

bpda

From luxury waterfront apartments to affordable housing, Boston’s real estate landscape is constantly evolving. Throughout this evolution, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) is tasked with engaging communities to plan and shape the future of Boston.

For anyone who works at the intersection of public policy and real estate development like we do at Solomon McCown, it is imperative to have an understanding of the planning process to in turn help navigate our clients through it.

Virtually every project in Boston falls under the ‘Large Project Review Process,’ meaning at least 50,000 square feet is constructed. Developments in this category undergo a complex review process coordinated by the BPDA.

Here are the ten steps a developer hoping to build in Boston has to go through to get their project reviewed, approved and constructed:

  1. Pre-file Meeting

Prospective developers meet with the BPDA and the City of Boston to outline project intentions and conceptual design.

  1. Letter of Intent and Impact Advisory Groups (IAG)

The developer files the Letter of Intent (LOI) to formally initiate the Article 80 process. The LOI outlines the basic details of the project, including the developer, address, intended use and size. Once the LOI is filed, the Impact Advisory Group — representatives from the community who review the local impacts — is formed.

  1. Project Notification Form (PNF) Filed

After the developer files the LOI, they must file a PNF to initiate a 30-day public comment period. Included in the PNF is a project summary, renderings, and a transportation and environmental impact analysis.

  1. Scoping Session

The official project review finally kicks off during the scoping session, where the developer, BPDA staff and the IAG meet to discuss the project.

  1. IAG/Developer and Community Meetings

Prior to the community meetings, the developers meet with the IAG to discuss project impacts and possible community benefits. The developer then presents the project proposal to the community at a community meeting.

  1. Boston Civic Design Commission (BCDC) Review

If a project is over 100,000 square feet it must be review by the BCDC for impacts on the public realm. BCDC must approve a project before it can be approved by the BPDA Board.

  1. Scoping Determination Issued

If the PNF addresses potential impacts and mitigation, the project will proceed to the BPDA Board for approval.

  1. BPDA Board

The BPDA Board will vote on projects following BPDA and community review. The BPDA Board consists of five members, four of which are appointed by the Mayor. One member is appointed by the Governor.

  1. Under Construction

Once the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) issues a building permit, the developer can begin construction of their project.

  1. Construction Complete

Once construction is complete, developers receives a Certification of Completion from the BPDA and celebrates with a ribbon cutting!

As the weather continues to get warmer and construction season ramps up, we’ll be keeping a close eye on which new developments will be popping up around the city. We may even be breaking out some big ribbon cutting scissors of our own!

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