Boston Redevelopment Authority Director Mark Maloney brought his vision of a revitalized, energized, and still “booming” Boston to a crowd of about 100 who gathered at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) on Monday, April 30.
Maloney, appointed by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in January 2000 as the city’s top planning and development official, highlighted a host of projects under way that add up to a city still growing despite the recent economic slowdown.
“Boston is booming and our economy continues to expand in every sector,” Maloney said during his 45-minute presentation.
Maloney was introduced by GSD Dean Peter Rowe, who said Maloney’s experience as a developer in the private and nonprofit sectors has given him a good foundation for his current post.
“Mark amassed a reputation as someone who cares greatly about his community and as someone who gets things done,” Rowe said. “I’ve been very impressed by the caliber and scope of Mark’s vision for Boston. From my personal perspective, the city of Boston is now in very good hands.”
With planning and economic development combined into a single agency, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has a rare combination of powers that gives it an unusual ability to get things done, Maloney said.
As the city’s top development official, Maloney actually heads four agencies. Two, including the BRA and the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation, play the most critical roles in planning and executing development. The two other agencies, though not as large, also play important roles – the Minority/Women Business Enterprise Office, which seeks to stimulate growth of businesses headed by minorities and women, and the Office of Special Events and Tourism.
Maloney said the city is in the midst of a period of remarkable public and private investment, from the Big Dig to the Boston Harbor cleanup to the T’s new Silver Line, which will join Dudley Square, South Station, and Logan Airport.
Maloney cited a laundry list of major projects that are under construction, from the distinctive arch-topped office tower at 111 Huntington Ave. to the Millennium Place hotel and condominium project on the edge of Chinatown. Many more projects are still in the planning stages, such as the new Fenway Park and the revitalization of the South Boston Waterfront.
Higher education makes up a critical part of Boston’s and the region’s economic base, Maloney said, with 35 colleges and universities home to 135,000 students in Boston alone.
A major thrust of the BRA with respect to colleges and universities, Maloney said, is to foster the construction of on-campus housing to help ease the shortage of affordable housing in the city.
Harvard’s 20/20/2000 housing project, in which the University will loan $20 million over 20 years for affordable housing projects in Boston and Cambridge, is an example of an important way that universities can contribute to the community, Maloney said after his talk.
“We need any resource we can get – and that’s an important resource,” Maloney said.
In addition to major headline-grabbing projects, Maloney said the BRA also focuses its efforts on the neighborhoods. Large local projects undergo a great deal of scrutiny, both by BRA officials and local residents during public hearing processes. Maloney cited the city’s efforts to get the state Department of Public Health to relocate to Dudley Square and the Master Plan for Roxbury – an area he said is poised for rapid growth – as two important neighborhood-centered developments.
“Boston is one of America’s great cities and we are seeking to make it better,” Maloney said.