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The Boston Redevelopment Authority: How Does it Work?

Eleven steps major Boston projects have to complete from proposal to final approval.

If you start with an open hand and close a finger for each time you can recall hearing the Boston Redevelopment Authority's name spoken in scorn, we suspect that you’ll end the exercise with a fist—perhaps a tightly clenched one.

The agency's rules can frustrate developers and designers, and its decisions often seem arcane and opaque to Beacon Hill residents.

But the Authority tries to be open, according to Heather Campisano, the authority’s Deputy Director for Development Review. As an example, she outlined in a conversation with Patch how the BRA handles input from the public on projects larger than 50,000 square feet.

Major steps:

  1. The developer proposes the project.
  2. The BRA distributes the proposal to city agencies.
  3. The developer is encouraged to present the project before community groups. In Beacon Hill, that would generally be the Beacon Hill Civic Association
  4. The project is posted online for a 30-day comment period—To find projects that currently have an open comment period, go to bostonredevelopmentauthority.org and click on the "text" link under the "development" header. Use the drop-down to limit the query to “under review” some (thought not all) of those projects will be in their comment period.
  5. The BRA seeks nominations for an "impact advisory group" composed of interested residents, business owners and representatives of community groups. This group will evaluate how the project negatively impacts the area and suggest ways to mitigate that impact.
  6. The BRA holds "scoping sessions" for the project, where BRA staff and the developer assess how the project is likely to impact the area. The advisory group is encouraged to attend these sessions.
  7. The advisory group makes it recommendations.
  8. Informed by advisory group and public input, BRA staff craft an agreement with the developer.
  9. The project goes before the BRA board of directors in a public hearing.
  10. Should the board approve the project, the advisory group has 15 days to review the final agreement.
  11. In some cases, the project goes before the zoning or appeals board for additional public hearings.

To find out about the BRA’s meeting schedule, go to bostonredevelopmentauthority.org and check the “events” box. To keep up with BRA news, go to the authority's blog at bostonredevelopmentauthoritynews.org.

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