Wu announces completed audit of city-owned land

Mayor Michelle Wu recently announced the completion of the Public Land for Public Good: Citywide Land Audit report. Wu said the 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

At the press conference, Mayor Wu said there will be a priority to redevelop the underutilized Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) parking lots in the South End and the 290 Tremont St. parking lot in Chinatown.

In the South End, the BWSC parking lots are located off of Harrison Avenue between Melnea Cass Boulevard and E Lenox Street. These five adjacent sub-lots are approximately 188,826 square feet and are currently utilized by BWSC employees for parking.

Over in Chinatown the 290 Tremont St. parking lot is presently a paid parking lot owned by the BPDA. This 29,153 square foot parcel is adjacent to the Tufts Medical Center MBTA station and, according to the audit report, provides significant opportunity for affordable housing and ground floor retail or cultural space.

Wu said in a city as dense and already developed as Boston, parcels identified in the land audit, like the ones in the South End and Chinatown, represent rare opportunities to utilize public space for the public good.

“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,” said Wu. “I look forward to a robust engagement process to ensure our planning process reflects the needs of our residents.”

The South End and Chinatown lots were among the 1,238 City parcels identified in the audit as vacant or underutilized, most of which are modestly sized.

The report identified the parking lots as a  “high opportunity site” and has been prioritized for community planning efforts.

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

At the press conference Wu said in the coming months, the BPDA and the Mayor’s Office of Housing will use the report to accelerate community visioning for the lots. Wu said the process will analyze the opportunities to build transit-oriented affordable housing and meet other neighborhood needs identified by the neighborhood and stakeholders.

All sites located in active planning studies will have a separate dedicated public process as a follow-up to visioning completed through a neighborhood planning study.

Under city government guidelines all BPDA and City-owned parcels in Boston will include the process of sending out Request for Proposal (RFP). These RFPs 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.

“This work offers a great starting point to accelerate the use of underutilized public land for public good,” said Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison. “We look forward to a robust community process to ensure that the development of any of the sites identified is responsive to the neighborhood’s needs, while creating new opportunities for mixed-income rental, homeownership, and open space in our communities.”

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