Walsh wants to look at handing over city buildings to developers for housing

Mayor Walsh today announced a formal process for developers to propose possibly taking over city buildings such as libraries, community centers, public-health facilities and fire stations and redeveloping them into larger structures that would include new city facilities layered with housing units.

In a statement, the mayor said the idea could help meet his goal of 53,000 new housing units in Boston by 2030:

With the right projects and partnerships in place, we believe this model could have the potential to enhance City property by improving our infrastructure and generating new affordable housing options needed in neighborhoods throughout our city. I look forward to seeing the ideas that could help us reimagine the future of our civic spaces to maximize the public benefit.

Developers have until March 23 to answer the RFI issued today.

The proposal builds on work done in other large cities for such mixed-use projects. In 2016, New York City approved a controversial plan to replace a Brooklyn library with a smaller branch inside a 36-story luxury-condo building.

But the idea of mixed private/public buildings is not completely foreign to Boston, either - one downtown fire and ambulance station sits in the first floor of an office tower and a developer is working with the city and the T to redevelop Back Bay station in exchange for the right to build a new office tower and residential complex atop what is now the station's parking garage.

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Comments

Good idea

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This is a good idea. The city has maximum leverage on land it owns especially for building more work force housing. I hope this includes agencies like the BRA, BWSC, and Public Health Commission too - they quietly sit on a lot of underitilized land.

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The old library building on

The old library building on Meridian St and also the old Orient Heights library have been vacant since the new library opened up in 2013. Seems like a no brainer that housing should be built in both of those locations unless you have some weird personal issue with developers or construction jobs or if you really think every neighborhood needs at least a few empty buildings for whatever reason.

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My gut guess

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Seeing that those 53,000 new housing units will either directly or indirectly benefit the residents of Boston, I’ll go with the interests of the residents of Boston.

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Except

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...half the city makes 35 thousand dollars or less a year, and nearly all of these units built are for those making 70 thousand+ a year, thus his interests are not in the residents of Boston, but hopeful future wealthy residents of Boston.

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There’s a longer explanation than what I can write

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In short, increasing supply handles demand, while should help with the rises in rent in the places where people who make $35,000 a year live. If the city fails to get more units of housing online, those people will surely get priced out. But sure, Boston’s loss (of middle class residents priced out) is the gain of Brockton, Lynn, and Waltham.

Supply and demand and the effects of an imbalance on prices is economics 101.

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Try and sell that crap

to the people in this town with a net worth of eight dollars.

Marty Walsh is treating City Hall like his own gloryhole palace and is always open for business for any developer that wants to be serviced by that moron.

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Well

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Belmont's real estate is beyond my comprehension, but you guys are 40A compliant, right?

Still, unless you have an understanding of supply and demand that is different from mine, do tell. All I know is that I have a co-worker living in Dorchester who appreciates a certain level of crime on her street as it keeps her apartment affordable. If building shiny new apartments lessens the competition for her third of a triple decker, I think she'll be alright.

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Gee....

Wonder how the fact that I used to live in Belmont has any bearing on my point whatsoever, but hey, you think you got your point across.

Secondly, check that white privilege, homeboy.

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Marty Walsh is moving Boston

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Marty Walsh is moving Boston forward for the betterment of its citizens.
There are a lot of old city owned buildings mostly built in the turn of the century (made out of stone ) in most Boston neighborhoods that were once clinics, police stations , fire stations etc, probably now occupied by social services.
I say resell these buildings to developers at least the city of Boston would probably gain hundreds of millions of dollars.
Smart move from the Mayor.
The State should do the same with their older building stock around Boston neighborhoods.

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Definitely makes a lot of

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Definitely makes a lot of sense to sell the most valuable resource the city owns or donate it to private developers.

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You obviously haven't studied

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You obviously haven't studied housing markets. Supply of high end housing past what meets demand doesn't do much for low earners, especially in an inflated market and with the building of luxury directly displacing those who are low and middle income. In addition, you must consider speculation, foreign investment, air bnb and corporate stays buying up so much property. The city is getting more homogenous and not for long term Bostonians. Believe Marty and his tools though!

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Whelp...

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can't see how anything could possibly go wrong with this idea.

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Wow

Marty has been figuratively handing the city over to developers for years, now he wants to do it literally.

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really no way to describe

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really no way to describe this but outrageous. using our housing crisis as pretext to sell off public goods to the private sector is shameful.

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Not necessarily a bad thing

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So this can be a deal where the city gets a new shiny library in a location, paid for by a developer, while the developer gets to build housing or offices on top. Seems like a win win.

I don't know why some people on here are so anti developer. If Walsh can get good deals from developers then he should go for it.

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"Good deals from developers"

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And I've got a bridge you might be interested in.

Mitigation from the private sector is nothing more than legalized extortion, regardless of how beneficial it may seem at the time. It also inflates the cost of projects, both public and private.

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Already A Similar Project In The Works

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The City has committed to redeveloping the old Bank of America building and adjacent parking lot in Uphams Corner into a new $18M library. At almost the same time, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative purchased the old Citizens Bank and adjacent parking lot directly across the street. It's my understanding that the City and DSNI are collaborating on how to potentially develop the 2 parcels in conjunction, for the overall benefit of the neighborhood. Including possible land swaps.

The key is working with a developer that is committed to the best interests of the community. Which DSNI is. They have made loud and clear that this will be development without displacement that will reflect the needs of the surrounding neighborhood and its existing residents.

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Yes, the Upham's Corner

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Yes, the Upham's Corner prospects are interesting.

The swaps might be a good idea. The parking lot next to the old BoA didn't belong to them - actually belonged to Citizen's.

This would pretty much be displacement-free. Neither property was residential. BoA is long-gone. Citizen's moved to newly fitted-out branch space in the ground floor of the building next door to theirs. I don't think anything else was in the Citizen's building.

I wonder if either proposal will include a floor or two of parking. That might help attracting customers to the Strand.

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Tricky

This is going to be tricky in the details. Best solution might be long-term leases - the city retains ownership of the land, and therefore leverage over making sure the building remains in good condition, making sure that the civic use doesn't get short-changed in space or access or design. This way the city gets the most out of its assets.

If they build Affordable Housing, like that project across from North Station, this might go over better politically.

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Lease

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Overall, I'm skeptical of turning existing city facilities over to the private sector. Many of the branch libraries are new or recently renovated. Once the city loses ownership, it loses a lot of leverage. Who enforces any requirements for public uses?

I agree with the comment above, leases are the way to go, but not too long-term, like 99 years.

Someday there may be other needs, the administration should not use up all its property to meet today's housing demand.

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Why is this remotely controversial?

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The City owns land, but exists to provide services. Setting up deals whereby new services are provided, or old ones are renovated in return for rights to build on City land is clever policy.

People who describe this as "controversial" would rather decaying schools and libraries their children don't attend or use so that they can gain a sense of aesthetic and/or ideological satisfaction. That's no reasonable way to make policy.

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Great idea. The City gets

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Great idea. The City gets nice new public facilities and more housing, at no cost to itself. I know people are worried about the price of the housing that is built. Walsh could do like he did with the parcel across from North Station and require the units built be sold within a certain price range.

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I didn't vote for him

For reasons that he does stuff like this. A large number of housing units coming online are going to short term rentals. Like up UDR. Their buildings in other cities have bad reviews on Yelp from residents who are sick of living in apartment buildings that are are being used as hotels. Owner can't rent out for what they want, then it goes to vacationers by the night.

This is also a perfect setup for giving Long Island away.

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Walsh has a bad record of addressing problems like Airbnb

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It's as if he's more worried about future campaign donations than he is about what the people of the city need--affordable housing. .

Two economists did a study two years ago that connected as causal the increase in short term units to increasing rental rates in the same neighborhoods. Two years ago. The two economists teach in area universities.

It took us 4 years to learn that the vast majority of new housing being built in Boston 80% is luxury housing. Walsh is either an idiot or a liar.

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Depressing

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This is depressing.
There's so little buildable land, so now city property is up for grabs.
In 20 years, we won't recognize this city.
It will be a fancy suburb on steroids -- all the distinct neighborhoods will become like the Seaport, luxury high rises filled with people who wear whatever the 2040 version of Canada Goose is, and national chains.
It's all too much -- and I agree that this maneuver will include a clause for the city buildings on Long Island.

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Walsh is nothing but an agent

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Walsh is nothing but an agent of greedy developers and charter school profiteers. He shouldn't even be called a mayor. If this happens it will result in diminished public services and more displacement of the working class and people of color. Even if these mixed use public/private condo towers have a smattering of affordable units in them, what the city terms affordable is only affordable to the lower economic tiers of the wealthy not the working class. The city govt claim to be shocked by the recent Spotlight series about how racist Boston is, but they just plow on in the same racist way they have before the Spotlight series, slashing public school budgets and selling off all city property to profiteers which will result in an ethnic cleansing of Boston.

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