Mayor Wu Announces Completed Audit of City-Owned Land

Special to Times

Mayor Michelle Wu announced the completion of the “Public Land for Public Good: Citywide Land Audit” of all city-owned property last Wednesday, June 15, at an event held in Charlestown at the six-acre Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA)-owned parking lot adjacent to Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) and the Community College MBTA Orange Line station.

This report is the culmination of an effort to comprehensively inventory all City-owned property, identify vacant and underutilized properties, and set in motion accelerated efforts to best utilize this property to serve Boston’s communities, particularly through the development of affordable housing, according to the city.

The city will conduct thorough community engagement to ensure the future use of land reflects the wants and needs of Boston residents. As part of the new report, the city released a public mapping tool (available at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/3b721ef32cce41338cd52a0a8c4a131f) for exploring its land inventory, and will actively maintain this database to increase transparency and information access.

“In a city as dense and already developed as Boston, these parcels identified in the land audit represent rare opportunities to utilize public space for the public good,” said Mayor Wu. “Parking lots and vacant spaces across our City have the potential to be transformed into providing crucially needed affordable housing, green space, and community services. I look forward to a robust engagement process to ensure our planning process reflects the needs of our residents.”

Among the 1,238 City parcels identified in the audit as vacant or underutilized, most of which are modestly sized, the report identified a number of high opportunity sites to prioritize for community planning efforts. These priority sites include the Bunker Hill parking lots as well as the Boston Public Health Commission Mattapan Campus, the East Boston A-7 police station, the Boston Water & Sewer Commission parking lots in the South End, the BPS Campbell Resource Center in Dorchester, the BPDA-owned Sargent’s Wharf parking lot in the North End, the Boston Transportation Department-owned Sullivan Square parking lots in Charlestown, the BPDA-owned parking lot located at 290 Tremont Street in Chinatown, and 95-133 Magazine St. in the South End. Future planning will take into account the current uses of these sites and how the needs met by each can be addressed onsite or in another location, according to the city.

“This audit presents us with real opportunities to address our city’s housing needs and build affordable housing across Boston,” Chief of Housing Sheila Dillon said in a press release. “With this information and transformative investments from the American Rescue Plan, we look forward to significant, community focused affordable housing investments in Boston.”

The city and its municipal agencies oversee 176.9 million square feet of land across Boston – representing 2,976 unique parcels with potential to fulfill the promise of transformative community development. The audit finds that most vacant and underutilized parcels are already in the pipeline to be developed as affordable housing or preserved as open space, but the City’s land portfolio does include high-opportunity sites that have not yet been tapped for community-oriented development.

According to the city, of all the sites: 106 sites (9%) of vacant or underutilized parcels present high opportunity for development due to their size and/or transit oriented location, but are not yet in a pipeline for development; 345 sites (28%) of vacant or underutilized parcels are currently under an active, ongoing process to dispose of the land. The disposition process for the future of these properties have included significant community planning and visioning;  526 sites (42%) of vacant or underutilized parcels are already in a pipeline for potential future projects; and 261 sites (21%) of vacant or underutilized parcels present little opportunity for development or community use and should not be considered further for advancing community-oriented development.

Like all BPDA and city-owned parcels in the City of Boston, any Request for Proposal (RFP) released for public land will be required to respond to the BPDA’s Diversity and Inclusion evaluation requirements, and outline commitments to include Minority and Women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) in all aspects of their development. The criteria is weighted at 25 percent of the total evaluation of each proposal.

The city welcomes residents to share suggestions for potential uses on the City’s vacant land via the feedback form found at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSehfIvpwH53R_AKfymwLPTTcbAmdK0eqO40gyrta6Y8ufndQw/viewform.

To review the full land audit report, visit https://www.boston.gov/housing/citywide-land-audit.

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