BRA Okays Zoning to Limit Offices

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board of directors voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a proposed zoning amendment that aims to limit the number of professional offices on Charles Street and the south side of Cambridge Street at the ground- and basement-levels.

                The proposed amendment, sponsored by City Councilor Josh Zakim, would designate professional offices, including banks and real-estate brokers, in those locations as “conditional use.” While it wouldn’t affect any current tenants, this additional language would subject future offices wishing to occupy the neighborhood’s busiest commercial thoroughfares to a complete community process.

                “I think it’s very encouraging that the BRA heard the neighborhood,” Zakim said following the decision. “The Beacon Hill Civic Association and the Beacon Hill Business Association were both ardent supporters of this zoning amendment. It’s a great sign when the city, the business community and residents are working together, and we’re on the right track now.”

                Zakim encourages residents to voice their support for the amendment when the matter goes for a vote before the city’s Zoning Commission at room 900 in City Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 9:30 a.m.

                John Corey, a Beacon Hill Civic Association board member and Joint Charles Street Committee co-chair who attended the BRA hearing on behalf of both groups, views the amendment as a step forward for the retail mix on Charles Street.

                “Throughout all my [Joint Charles Street] meetings, the idea of a bank or office opening up on Charles

Street was not really seen as a positive development along the street,” Corey wrote in an e-mail, “so I think this extra protection is exactly what is needed and allows the residents to have a say in the mix along Charles (and the south side of Cambridge Street).”

                Joan Berndt, another Civic Association board member who attended last week’s hearing on behalf of the group, is also pleased that the amendment would allow residents to have more input on what businesses would operate in the neighborhood.

                “Since many other neighborhoods already have this protection, we’re very much looking forward to having that same type of defense, so that we can provide an attractive retail environment for the lively businesses that serve the needs of the Beacon Hill community,” Berndt said.

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