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BPDA reverses proposed corridor zoning back to residential and delays safety changes

Last week, the BPDA shared details for the rezoning of "Squares and Corridors" and pulled Bennington, Border, and Meridian Streets (except for the portion between Maverick and Central Squares) out of the character area. 

Instead of their prior recommendation of "Multi-Family Residential/Local Services," BPDA is now proposing these areas as "Residential-4" (EBR-4). This is the same district that would regulate non-corridor areas, including the Gove Street neighborhood, Brandywyne Village, and BHA Orient Heights. 

The EBR-4 district allows up to 4 stories (hence the "4"--previously it was the 3rd district and named EBR-3), a height of 50', a width of 120', and requires a yard in the back 1/3 of the lot.

I previously anticipated that the regulations would be "Main Street Mixed Use" (S2) or "Active Main Street" (S3), which are now fleshed out as a part of their "Squares + Streets" city-wide initiative. While BPDA has decoupled East Boston's rezoning from "Squares + Streets," upon review, the guidelines for MU-4, MU-5, and MU-7 appear consistent with S1, S2, and S3 districts.

BPDA's prior recommendation to create an affordable housing density bonus program to allow "potentially up to five stories" ("East Boston Tomorrow," pg 115) does not appear in the current proposed zoning. 

Safety changes to corridors pushed back due to "mixed opinion" 

With documented speeding and crashes, the original "East Boston Tomorrow" draft laid the groundwork for improved pedestrian and cyclist safety along corridors like Bennington Street. Rather than moving towards the next step of designing specific implementation, BPDA is removing these recommendations from the plan in order to conduct further study. The amount of delay in unknown as no specific timelines were shared.

Having already done preliminary due diligence on feasibility, which found similar roadway operations to today, the City should be able to start implementing at least some basic safety changes, such as pedestrian signaling and raised walkways, and work towards final designs that the community could examine in detail.

Changes to Squares are more incremental than expected

Previously, Maverick, Day, and Orient Heights Squares were proposed to be in the same "Neighborhood Shopping" district. While the draft plan notes "Day Square is a wide right-of-way, well suited for added height and density" ("East Boston Tomorrow," pg 99), under the proposed S2/MU-5 district, only an additional floor from existing buildings would be permitted—up to 5 stories, 65' tall, and 150' wide.

Given the level of proposed public investment into a new Silver Line station and public spaces in Day Square, the language suggested something more transformational, like the 7-story MU-7 district, which would be in line with 248 Meridian Street (Seville Boston Harbor) and 187 Border St (Grace Apartments). However, this district only applies to Maverick Sq and limited parts around Central Square.

BPDA acknowledges Day Square's proximity to the airport as a limiting factor. However, that doesn't appear to be the main constraint as the Logan's airspace height limit here is 100'. Moreover, the recently approved 355 Bennington St project is 6-stories.

With the delay in sharing these Squares and Corridors recommendations, the public comment period has been extended again.

If you have feedback, you can email BPDA at by December 23rd. You can also find public comments submitted through 12/1 and the full revised zoning maps on the project website