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Urban Renewal Zone extensions

Please be advised that the North End/Waterfront Residents Association (NEWRA) strongly opposes the BRA’s proposed ten-year extension of the 14 expiring Urban Renewal Zones (URZ), and particularly the zone in the North End/Waterfront neighborhood.  During the meetings held in various communities this year, we feel that the BRA has failed to articulate a cohesive rationale that would justify renewing these extraordinary powers.

The powers the BRA seeks to extend were originally authorized to allow the BRA to deal effectively with specific conditions, namely blighted neighborhoods, which no longer exist in these Zones.  The North End/Waterfront today is a vibrant and highly desirable neighborhood.  As noted recently in Real Estate, the average North End purchase price of $866 per square foot is the same as Rome’s historic district.  The North End/Waterfront neighborhood is the home of two excellent educational institutions, the Eliot School and the North Bennet Street School.  Over 200,000 people per year visit the North End to see the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House; to walk the Freedom Trail through our old city neighborhood, and to enjoy the Feasts and the Italian restaurants.  The blight is long gone.  It will require thoughtful planning to maintain the delicate balance of activity and residential quality of life in our small, dense neighborhood.  Any development contemplated for our neighborhood should be undertaken with the full participation of the community, under the protection of the same laws and due process that govern the non-URZ neighborhoods of Boston.

These extraordinary powers are expiring precisely because they were designed by law to expire.  It was never intended that a nongovernmental agency should retain and exercise such powers indefinitely.  The City of Boston is in the process of a multi-year planning study.  It is time to let these decades-old powers expire, as they were designed to do, in most neighborhoods and particularly in our North End/Waterfront neighborhood.  In some areas it might be useful for Boston to grandfather the Urban Renewal powers, and we are open to having a reasonable discussion (through ADCO) about that.  But in most areas, including the North End/Waterfront area, we feel strongly that the land and the authority should be returned to the citizens of Boston and become part of a cohesive plan for the City’s future.

Yours truly,

Ford Cavallari, President

We can’t know its outcome

We, the duly authorized representatives of our respective neighborhood associations to the Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations (ADCO), request that the City of Boston delay seeking 10-year reauthorizations of the fourteen (14) expiring Urban Renewal Zones sought by Boston Redevelopment Authority until the conclusion of the recently launched citywide planning process, Imagine Boston 2030.

We understand that the City may seek to renew temporarily the agency’s powers in certain current Urban Renewal Zones.  We urge that if this is done, it be done only on a provisional annual basis.

Once the current planning process is complete, the citizens of Boston will have better information to determine the advantages and disadvantages of Urban Renewal in realizing the goals of the Imagine Boston 2030 master plan.  Until that planning process concludes, however, we can’t know its outcome.  Thus, we urgently request that you wait on asking for the full 10-year reauthorizations in these fourteen Urban Renewal Zones.

Thank you for your understanding and anticipated support.


Howard Kassler


Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations

Associations joining in this letter are  Bay Village Neighborhood Association, the Beacon Hill Civic Association, the Boston Chinatown Residents’ Association, the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association, the South End Forum and the West End Civic Association.

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