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Design a Better Boston Are you disappointed with the state of Boston's current architecture/development? Think you have a better idea? Post it here.

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Old 05-02-2016, 09:48 AM   #1
DigitalSciGuy
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Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

I understand the Boston Redevelopment Authority has significant history, both as simple statement of fact and in the really terrible things they did in hindsight. The BRA's name further carries with it the weight of that history.

As the authority does internal reform, does it make sense to separate the BRA into a Department of Buildings - for managing existing structures, approving proposed structures, and ensuring safe and code-compliant building construction - and Department of City Planning - for approving zoning changes, city-wide zoning studies, etc?

I'm looking at New York City as my example and will admit my relative naivetť in making my proposal.

I know that City of Boston has the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) and under that the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the Building Division, and Housing Division, which largely fulfills the duty of NYC's DoB. Then there's the Zoning Commission, which I can't tell whether its under ISD or BRA or?... Maybe it does make more sense for the BRA to have both city-wide planning capacities and building and development approvals under one roof.

I guess I'm really trying to spark a discussion about our current structure of governance around development, zoning, permitting, and inspections.
  • How is our current model working?
  • What sorts of organisational reform would amount to real change and what would just amount to rearranging deck charis?
  • What models of governance work elsewhere?
  • How much of our issues are structural? Branding? Transparency?

Thought loops like this make me really wish there was a TransportationCamp for ALL urban issues.
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Old 05-02-2016, 10:49 AM   #2
tangent
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

I think at the very least there should be a rebranding. "Re" as in "Redevelopment" has some significant historical baggage in terms of bulldozing historic neighborhoods and targeting minority neighborhoods for "clearance". It is really a terrible and sometimes even bloody history.

And moving forward at this point there isn't any distinction between "development" and "redevelopment" in a state where every development was once something else.

Just dropping the "Re" and making it the Boston Development Authority/Department/Board/Commission or "Office" might be all that is really needed to rebrand. Depends what acronym you want.

Boston Development Authority - BDA
Boston Development Department - BDD
Boston Development Office - BDO
Boston Development Board - BDB
Boston Development Commission - BDC

Of course each one of those implies a certain organization structure. The BRA is currently headed by a board with 4 members appointed by the mayor and one appointed by the governor, so "board" or "commission" would be appropriate names if a similar structure is kept in place.

"Office" or department might be good to name the actual organization that does the work:

So instead of BRA and BRA Board, you have: Boston Development Office (BDO) and the board is renamed the Boston Development Board (BDB).

Most cities or towns around Massachusetts seem to have this "Planning Board" and "Planning Department" model, but really the boards do less planning than they do just assessing and issuing special permits for proposed developments. And on the department sides they do all the legwork.
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Old 09-27-2016, 08:20 AM   #3
statler
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

Close!

Quote:
Mayor Martin J. Walsh is determined to change the way Bostonians talk about the cityís powerful development agency. So determined, in fact, that heís changing its name.

The mayor Tuesday will unveil a new moniker for the six-decade-old Boston Redevelopment Authority. So long, BRA. Welcome to the BPDA.

Thatís the Boston Planning and Development Agency, which, effective immediately, will be how the agency refers to itself. Itís the result of a 14-week rebranding effort undertaken with design consulting firm Continuum, and part of a broader push by the Walsh administration to put a kinder, more collaborative face on the often-opaque bureaucracy that guides major construction in Boston.
Boston Globe - Sept 27, 2016

Depending on how busy this thread gets, I might rename it or split it off, but I wanted to give DigitalSciGuy his props.
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Old 09-27-2016, 08:23 AM   #4
tysmith95
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

It's about damn time
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Old 09-27-2016, 08:39 AM   #5
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

The logo is fucking brilliant. Same design concept as the genius old one (letters in a single object), but with a modern twist.

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Old 09-27-2016, 09:00 AM   #6
statler
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

Also, speech bubbles implying a conversation.
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Old 09-27-2016, 09:27 AM   #7
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

Quote:
Originally Posted by datadyne007 View Post
The logo is fucking brilliant.
+1
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Old 09-27-2016, 11:04 AM   #8
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

Quote:
Originally Posted by datadyne007 View Post
The logo is fucking brilliant. Same design concept as the genius old one (letters in a single object), but with a modern twist.
+1 also

It also implies (as does the naming order) that planning tops development as a mission.
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Old 09-27-2016, 11:11 AM   #9
meddlepal
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

Until the way the BRA operates is fundamentally changed I have a hard time seeing this as basically anything other than a cosmetic change so Walsh can claim he updated the BRA during his upcoming re-election campaign and check-off the "I fixed the BRA" campaign promise box.
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Old 09-27-2016, 11:31 AM   #10
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

According to the article there are plans for structural changes to go along with the cosmetic ones, but I understand skepticism until we start seeing proof of it in action.
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Old 09-28-2016, 08:07 AM   #11
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Re: Break up & Rebrand BRA as Boston Depts. of Buildings & City Planning

http://meetbpda.bostonplans.org/
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