Image courtesy of Boston Planning & Development Agency

The final downtown Boston rezoning plan encourages multifamily housing and active retail and entertainment uses, while placing limits on research labs.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency’s “Skyline” districts proposal is a centerpiece of Mayor Michelle Wu’s zoning strategy to encourage investment in downtown by developers following three years of rising office vacancies. It encourages multifamily housing and active ground-floor uses such as escape rooms, breweries and yoga studios, while placing limits on research labs.

The rezoning plan divides the PLAN: Downtown study area into two new zoning districts. The larger “Sky” district includes maximum building heights limited only by FAA flight paths, or approximately 700 feet, and the Boston Common shadow law. The “Sky Low” district includes 155-foot building heights.

The “Sky Low” district, which includes the Ladder Blocks west of Washington Street and several blocks around Broad Street, also forbids research labs.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between our planning goals and public feedback. The mayor has identified that there are places we need to look at to have height in the downtown,” BPDA Director of Planning Aimee Chambers said during a virtual presentation Tuesday.

Approximately 70 people participated in the presentation, which kicks off a public comment period that runs through June 4. The proposal is expected to be presented to the BPDA board in June.

Representatives of the Boston Preservation of Alliance and historic property managers Revolutionary Spaces reiterated their opposition to the height increases in the Downtown Crossing area, which includes historic sites such as the Old South Meeting House. Supporters said the changes could encourage more nightlife and vibrancy.

The zoning plan includes a proposed 24-story office tower by Midwood Investment & Development in the “Sky” district. The 11-21 Bromfield St. project has been in permitting since 2020 and attracted opposition from some neighborhood residents, and support from downtown business leaders and developers who argue that new class A office buildings have attracted the most tenants in the post-COVID work environment.

Under the current zoning, offices are a conditional use for the Bromfield Street site. Under the rezoning proposal, residential uses would be allowable by-right.

‘Skyline’ Districts Set for BPDA Review

by Steve Adams time to read: 1 min