Boston’s first new citywide plan to guide growth and civic improvements in a half-century will focus on housing, transportation, and access to education.
Those were the top priorities thousands of city residents identified in public meetings with planners developing Imagine Boston 2030, an 18-month-long effort designed to guide Boston’s growth over the next few decades.
“We’re really thinking about this as a chance to do more proactive planning than we typically have done,” said Sara Myerson, the newly appointed chief of planning at the Boston Redevelopment Authority. “The crux of it is a plan to guide growth and make Boston a more inclusive city.”
The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life in Boston: improved infrastructure and open space, for example, inclusive growth and a healthier environment.
Boston is growing at its fastest rate in decades, Myerson noted. Since 2010, the city has added more than 45,000 jobs, and its population has grown at twice the national average. That brings challenges — a housing crisis, Myerson said, as well as overtaxed transit and roads, and growing inequality — but also new resources to tackle those challenges. The trick, she said, is managing that growth so it helps all Bostonians.
“Growing the city is the right approach,” she said. “The key to this plan is making sure everyone shares in the benefits.”
Just how is not entirely clear; the plan is still in early phases. But improving job training programs and access to jobs — in part by encouraging businesses outside the downtown districts — will probably be part of the solution, said Myerson and Jamie Torres Springer, a principal at HR&A Advisors, a consulting firm the city hired to lead the planning effort.
“By 2032, Boston could have 100,000 more residents than it does now,” Springer said. “And employment centers will be in different places than they are today.”
They also suggested zoning to protect industrial land from being redeveloped into housing or retail, and tools to encourage neighborhood small business and startups. City officials expect to gradually provide specifics about places and policy goals. And any citywide plan will be crafted to mesh with local rezoning studies now underway in fast-growing neighborhoods such as the Dorchester Avenue section of South Boston and Washington Street in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.
The Walsh administration expects to host another eight community workshops in March, and a citywide town-hall-type forum at the end of the month. Teams of city employees will fan out in neighborhoods across the city to gather feedback, and residents can also text their ideas or drop notes in suggestion boxes at public buildings and other prominent locations.
“This isn’t about one round of engagement and a plan,” Myerson said. “This is a completely different approach.”