After guiding Boston’s building boom from City Hall, Jonathan Greeley will leave next week to join a company with big ambitions here: Amazon.
The longtime director of development review at the Boston Planning & Development Agency, Greeley will join Amazon’s economic development team in Boston. His move comes at a time when the Seattle-based tech giant is trying to open more warehouses in Eastern Massachusetts — pushing its “last mile” delivery network closer to customers — but faces pushback in some communities over concerns about traffic and other impacts. Needham, for example, recently approved zoning changes that deliberately exclude warehouses from a high-profile spot near Route 128. The company’s thus-far-unsuccessful efforts to open a major warehouse in Boston — most recently at Widett Circle south of downtown — have also sparked controversy.
Meanwhile, the company’s army of white-collar workers is growing quickly in the Seaport. Amazon is on track to open its first new office building in Seaport Square in early 2022, and in January announced it would move ahead with plans to lease a second tower, with room for another 3,000 technology and corporate jobs on top of roughly 3,700 such positions already in the city.
In his role at the BPDA, Greeley oversaw major revisions to the Seaport Square project, which included $5 million in potential property tax breaks awarded in 2018 for Amazon to occupy the first building. He also helped shape Boston’s bid for the company’s so-called HQ2, which eventually went to Arlington, Va., just outside Washington.
BPDA director Brian Golden said Greeley has recused himself from any conversations involving Amazon since he began job discussions with the company. Mike Christopher, Greeley’s deputy, will take over as interim director of development review once Greeley leaves.
Golden told BPDA staffers of Greeley’s departure this week. During the agency’s monthly board meeting on Thursday, Golden noted that Greeley oversaw permitting for some of the city’s biggest projects in the past few years, including for Winthrop Center, the redevelopment of Suffolk Downs, and air rights over the Mass. Pike in the Back Bay.
“It’s been a privilege to serve the people of Boston over the past 14 years,” Greeley said in an email. “It’s been an incredible journey and I’m immensely proud of the work that we’ve been able to accomplish to move Boston forward.”
Greeley joined the planning department of the then-Boston Redevelopment Authority during the Menino administration. After Mayor Martin J. Walsh took office, Golden tapped Greeley to lead permitting review, with an eye toward better integrating planning and development at the agency. In his roughly six years in that post, Golden estimated Greeley had a hand in permitting more than 80 million square feet of development.
“He played a key role in our commitment to do things differently, to make sure development is consistent with sound planning principles,” Golden said in an interview. “Jon Greeley certainly made Boston a better place. His accomplishments will endure for many years to come.”
Greeley joins a number of high profile departures at City Hall, a natural exodus for a change in administrations after Walsh left office in March; Golden announced a few other departing BPDA staffers on Thursday, including deputy chief of staff Sonal Gandhi. Prior to the mayoral transition, in December, Amazon hired another prominent City Hall aide — civic engagement chief Jerome Smith — to be director of external affairs in Boston.