March 1, 2022
Other items on her mayoral to-do list, such as abolishing the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which was rebranded under Mayor Marty Walsh as the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), are not something that will happen as quickly. Translating the campaign pledge into reality first means hiring a chief of planning as project proposals continue to roll in, and neighborhood meetings on projects already underway continue.
“We’re in a transition period, still, shifting the way the city runs our planning and development processes,” Wu said in an interview. “We can’t get that person in fast enough because that role will involve overseeing the ongoing pipeline of proposed projects, which are still coming fast and furious, as well as the longer term, deeper reforms to the BPDA and to our development processes,” she said.
The “Dorchester Bay City” project — a $5 billion proposal to remake the 36-acre area once home to the Bayside Expo Center into nearly 2,000 residential units, 15 acres of green space, and 4.3 million square feet of office and research space — is one example of a project already being discussed. If it moves ahead through the city approval process, the project could take 20 years to complete.
The Dorchester Bay City proposal highlights how so many concerns, from climate change, to housing affordability and what public spaces should look like, are interconnected, according to Wu.
“I’m looking forward to getting our planning piece in place quickly so that we get down to the nitty gritty on so many of these projects that are before us and are quite consequential,” she said.
Wu also noted her new chief of staff, comes with a background in planning, architecture and design. Tiffany Chu, a transit technology company executive, is a former commissioner of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, and graduated from MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning.
“Given how we are building out our organization, managing our team, we’ll have an eye to how all these pieces fit together,” Wu said.
The timeline for a new chief of planning is “weeks rather than months,” the mayor said. A committee has been helping to recruit and vet candidates. Kairos Shen, who Wu describes as a friend and adviser, is helping with the search. Shen, who served as the BRA’s director of planning for 13 years and now works at MIT, is not a candidate for the job himself, according to Wu.