Special to the Times
Boston City Council President Flynn has scheduled a hearing on Thursday, September 14 at 2 p.m. to discuss bringing all City of Boston Meetings, abutters meetings, City Council committee hearings and related business back in person, with a hybrid option for accessibility and persons with disabilities. The hearing will also discuss bringing back meetings including the City of Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), Licensing Board, Cannabis Board, and Boston Planning and Development Agency Board (BPDA).
This hearing order was filed in June in part to reevaluate the practice of remote-only City of Boston meetings in an effort to return to a sense of normalcy, with the federal government having announced the end of national and public health emergencies earlier this year. It comes in response to reports of high office vacancies and a slower economic recovery of the Financial District and Downtown Crossing. In addition, business leaders have also expressed serious concerns about the future of the city’s office space, and asked for assistance from local, state, and federal officials to play a key role in helping to bring more workers and foot traffic back Downtown.
While foot traffic in Downtown is rebounding, it is rebounding unevenly in different parts of Downtown. Foot traffic in the two zip codes that make up the Financial District is still at 47.8% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels, and office vacancies overall are at 20.4%. Reports indicated that the first quarter of the year saw 3.4 million square feet of negative net absorption in office spaces in Boston, marking the fourth consecutive quarter in which companies are putting space back on the market. Conversations with commercial real estate executives, restaurants, coffee shops, and other small businesses owners in Downtown have also highlighted serious concerns about the future of Downtown.
Resuming City of Boston Board Meetings in person, with a hybrid option for public accessibility and persons with disabilities, would allow for all members of the various city boards, attorneys representing clients, proponents of a particular project, interested members of the public, and City Hall staff to return on site and provide the potential to support our local economy by visiting restaurants, coffee shops, and other businesses. All City Council committee hearings returning in person could possibly have a similar economic effect as well.
“Downtown Boston plays a key role in driving our economy. It wasn’t all that long ago that we all made it a central focus to support our small businesses when we saw the pandemic disrupt our local restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Once again, local businesses are asking the government to do all that we can to support them, and I think it’s critical that the city continue to examine any and all ways to bring foot traffic back Downtown,” said Council President Flynn. “I want to thank Mayor Wu and her team for their continued efforts on this important issue. I am hoping for a productive conversation as we work to continue to bring foot traffic, business, and vibrancy back onto our streets.”
For more information, please contact Council President Flynn’s office at 617-635-3203 and [email protected].