General Boston Discussion

Java King

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What are people's thoughts on Portland and Seattle? I was recently on a trip with many people from those two urban areas, and they mentioned their downtowns had become really bad with vacant storefronts, homeless people, drugs, graffiti, dirty streets, lack of pedestrian traffic, etc. I was really defending Boston as "doing a lot of things right" in relation to the post-pandemic, post BLM rallies, etc. I know we have a big problem at Mass & Cass, but it seems to be concentrated there as opposed to Downtown Crossing, Back Bay, North End, etc. I still think of Boston as really clean and relatively safe. Do people have the same impression?
 

Charlie_mta

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I've been to Seattle and Portland a lot in recent years, as we have family members living near both of those cities. Absolutely, their central areas have been severely trashed and ruined, and in the case of Portland, probably irreparably. A lot the problem is Portland and Seattle's milder climate, which enables the widespread ad-hoc homeless camps on downtown streets and further out as well. But even more than that, a lot of the difference is cultural. Seattle and Portland really are in the "wild west" with all the chaos and craziness that goes with that, whereas Boston has a very strong ingrained stability and tradition going back 400 years. The cultural difference between the west coast and the northeast is astounding in that regard, and used to be kind of a fun thing, but now, thanks to the homeless crisis, seems to have become a big factor in the disintegration of west coast cities' downtowns.
 

Java King

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I've been to Seattle and Portland a lot in recent years, as we have family members living near both of those cities. Absolutely, their central areas have been severely trashed and ruined, and in the case of Portland, probably irreparably. A lot the problem is Portland and Seattle's milder climate, which enables the widespread ad-hoc homeless camps on downtown streets and further out as well. But even more than that, a lot of the difference is cultural. Seattle and Portland really are in the "wild west" with all the chaos and craziness that goes with that, whereas Boston has a very strong ingrained stability and tradition going back 400 years. The cultural difference between the west coast and the northeast is astounding in that regard, and used to be kind of a fun thing, but now, thanks to the homeless crisis, seems to have become a big factor in the disintegration of west coast cities' downtowns.
Yes, it was sad to hear my coworkers speak about Portland. A nurse didn't feel safe going to work at a downtown hospital, and the couple were thinking about moving further away from the city center. This wasn't the first coworker that spoke about moving out of Portland due to the current issues. It's like a domino effect that hollows out the city. It's just so sad. Portland is such a great urban area.
 

#bancars

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Thought a lot of Mayor Wu's comments in this interview were worthy of discussion! I'm cautiously optimistic about the next few years under the Wu administration. I think they've proven themselves fairly nimble in the face of a lot of adversity (e.g. the Orange Line shutdown).

 

Smuttynose

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Thought a lot of Mayor Wu's comments in this interview were worthy of discussion! I'm cautiously optimistic about the next few years under the Wu administration. I think they've proven themselves fairly nimble in the face of a lot of adversity (e.g. the Orange Line shutdown).

Agreed. I thought the housing comments generally struck the right chord. Her talk about expanding the population to 800,000 and "growing the pie" reinforce that she is pro-growth. Looking for housing opportunities on city-owned properties makes sense, but I don't think we're going to land close to 800,000 without more significant reforms to zoning and land use approvals for private projects.

I do think we tend to get a little bit distracted on making public transit free versus making public transit functional and reliable, which I'd argue should be the first priority, and then making public transit access more geographically accessible and convenient, which I'd argue should be the second priority. From an environmental justice perspective, I think there's a compelling argument to expand public transit service to underserved Boston neighborhoods as so many areas - Nubian, Chelsea/Everett, large parts of Dorchester, etc., - have been historically underserved or suffer from second rate service.
 

DBM

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The fixation on 800,000 is bizarre and illogical. Yes, that was the City's high-water population benchmark 70 years ago--but so what? What factors intelligently inform the drive to re-attain a population of 800,000? Otherwise it's so much hollow symbolism.

Also, interesting that she stated the goal is still to abolish the BPDA. Of course, that requires a home-rule petition.

Good story in the Globe recently about how bizarrely handcuffed Boston and other Commonwealth municipalities are by the need for incessant home-rule petitions. For all of the self-congratulatory rhetoric of our "glorious Puritan-era inheritance of local rule/town government" or what-have-you, turns out our municipalities are pretty enfeebled--but this one benchmark, at least.

Key quotations:

"A 2007 report from The Boston Foundation found that Boston had far less power over its own affairs than peer cities such as New York, Denver, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, and Seattle. Boston’s limited ability to raise new sources of revenue leaves the city heavily dependent on property taxes, incentivizing officials to prioritize commercial development, the report argued."

"A Boston City Council staff analysis found that of the roughly 100 home-rule petitions Boston filed with the Legislature from 2011 to 2021, fewer than half became law. Successful petitions, on average, lingered nearly 10 months before Beacon Hill granted final approval. The petitions that tend to have more success are mundane administrative matters, while substantive proposals are more likely to languish and die. And in the past decade, the analysis shows, just one home-rule petition has been approved in less than a month."

Abolishing the BPDA is the exact opposite of a "mundane administrative matter." Therefore, assuming status quo continues, it will go nowhere...
 

DZH22

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bigpicture7

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Apparently it's not just Boston.
It's like the VC dudes are having a mid-life crisis and want to restart their careers in a new place so they can feel young again. 🙄
That, and Scott Kirsner is an often-off-the-mark "tech" columnist at the globe. This is a guy who wrote a column about walking around Kendall square on a freezing Monday morning in January, saw all of the boarded-up construction sites and discerned few people "working in office" on that day (a freaking January Monday during peak Omicron wave) and concluded that Kendall had no future as a "place." This guy continually misses the point, and I am pretty sure he has a chip on his shoulder about tech more than he cares about deeply understanding tech.

I would much rather be a city that is a big recipient of R&D $$$ (whether VC, grant, contract, whatever) than a haven for Tech VC Bros to park their Ferraris. Miami Beach is the perfect place for the latter. And to your point: for Tech VC Bros' midlife crises.
 
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Blackbird

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That, and Scott Kirsner is an awful "tech" columnist at the globe. This is a guy who wrote a column about walking around Kendall square on a freezing Monday morning in January, saw all of the boarded-up construction sites and discerned few people "working in office" on that day (a freaking January Monday during peak Omicron wave) and concluded that Kendall had no future as a "place." This guy continually misses the point, and I am pretty sure he has a chip on his shoulder about tech more than he cares about deeply understanding tech.
Without knowing much about the guy, I did find it weird the degree to which the article seems fixated on cryptocurrency and adoption of it as a benchmark of progress in the tech industry.
 

Brandeisian

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I work for the Boston office of major Bay Area firm involved in VC. We recently had an analysis done to determine the best markets to open an office in next.

Miami did not fare well. From my understanding the reasoning was that it is a tax play more than a hub of innovation. Lots of groups moving there on paper or having a couple execs spend 183 days a year there. It’s like comparing the Cayman or British Virgin Islands to Boston and remarking that they have so much more business than us.

Our analysis suggested Toronto as the best new office to target innovation (very underserved by VC prof services rn) and Singapore as a hedge against Hong Kong difficulties. I do take the articles discussion of New York quite seriously as our office there has had growth that caught us off guard - Boston was planned to be the hub of the East Coast.
 

stick n move

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Cambridge Becomes First Massachusetts City to Fully Abolish Parking Minimums


The Cambridge City Council on Monday eliminated all minimum parking space requirements from the city’s zoning code, citing declining car ownership and the need for more open space and housing construction.

The Council voted 8-1 to amend Cambridge’s Zoning Ordinance — which details regulations for new construction in Cambridge — to set all minimum parking requirements to zero, making Cambridge the first Massachusetts city to fully abolish parking minimums. Previously, zoning regulations required new residential developments to have one off-street parking space per unit.

https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2022/10/25/cambridge-parking/
 

bigpicture7

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There have been several articles over the past day or so on the Wu administration's plans to revitalize downtown. This one from B&T is interesting, and suggests a willingness to reconsider height and density for residential:


Hmmm:
Officials will renew its efforts to catalyze redevelopment of public- and privately-owned sites, including the Pi Alley Garage at 275 Washington St., Jemison said.

The privately-owned garage occupies a 33,000-square-foot site and was the subject of preliminary redevelopment discussions in 2016, according to a Boston Herald report at the time.

“That could potentially be a nice tall building site,” Jemison said during a media briefing Wednesday. “There are also proposals out there like the one on Bromfield Street that have been in a bit of a gray area, and now those can get a second look.”
And
The study is also expected to resolve lingering confusion about the multiple regulations that limit downtown building heights, including laws limiting additional shadow on Boston Common and the Public Garden, and Federal Aviation Administration height limits related to Logan International Airport flight patterns.
 

stick n move

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Interesting.

Heres an couple interesting quotes too

Lab conversions remain a more popular option, although real estate researchers predict many of the life science projects will be shelved as financing becomes more difficult in the biotech sector.
The planning study area encompasses a wide swath of the core business district from Government Center to the Massachusetts Turnpike, and contemplates potential increases in base building zoning heights.
 

SuffolkHeights11

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There have been several articles over the past day or so on the Wu administration's plans to revitalize downtown. This one from B&T is interesting, and suggests a willingness to reconsider height and density for residential:


Hmmm:


And
"A nice tall building site." Anything less than the FAA limit at Pi Alley and Bromfield is a failure. It's great that Jemison and Mayor Wu both agree that they key to bringing back downtown is adding residents. The question is are they going to cave to existing residents or welcome new ones?
 

Java King

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"A nice tall building site." Anything less than the FAA limit at Pi Alley and Bromfield is a failure. It's great that Jemison and Mayor Wu both agree that they key to bringing back downtown is adding residents. The question is are they going to cave to existing residents or welcome new ones?
Where will the Bears go? Their habitats are being destroyed. :)
 
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DBM

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Anything less than the FAA limit at Pi Alley and Bromfield is a failure.
For what it's worth, Pi Alley has significantly more space within its footprint than does the collection of buildings slated to be demolished for 11 Bromfield. I just did some quick online surveying:

Winthrop Center: 1.05-acre footprint
Pi Alley Garage: .70-acre footprint
11 Bromfield site: .55-acre footprint
Millennium Tower: .45-acre footprint

Each additional tenth of an acre gets you another 4,350 sq.-ft. to play with in your development sandbox... on the other hand, 11 Bromfield site has a bit of a better ratio of street frontage-to-constrained perimeter (i.e., perimeter that abuts alleys and other buildings).

11 Bromfield: 270 ft. street frontage/640 ft. total perimeter
Pi Alley Garage: 240 ft. street frontage/690 ft. total perimeter

So, uh... there's that(?)
 

KentXie

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An ignominious achievement for Boston. Renting in Boston is one of the biggest scams in the country, given the old stock, the unaffordable new stock, the fact that people can tour your apartment while still living there, the fact that landlords puts it on the previous and new tenants to clean the apartment between moves, the broker fee, and the outrageous first and last month deposit.
 

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