Photo courtesy of Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

A federal official who grew up in Amherst public housing and whose career in Boston, Detroit and Washington, D.C. has focused on affordable housing creation is Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s choice for the newly-created post of chief of planning.

James Arthur Jemison II will begin his new role at city hall in May, Wu announced today.

The new planning czar will coordinate the city’s land-use planning and policies including oversight of all city hall departments, ranging from transportation and environment to schools and libraries.

In a key element of Wu’s campaign platform, Jemison will oversee changes to the structure of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, which Wu has criticized for its role in managing Boston’s decade-long building boom.

Jemison’s position will fall under the city of Boston’s payroll, Wu announced, as opposed to the independent BPDA. Agency director Brian Golden stepped down on April 14 after eight years at the helm of the agency, which currently oversees permitting, urban renewal and planning.

In another personnel move announced today, BPDA Director of Real Estate Devin Quirk was promoted to the agency’s deputy of chief of operations and organizational transformation.

The agency makeover will include upcoming recruitment of planning and urban designers, and choosing a deputy chief of urban design, which is a new position.

During a 28-year career in public and private development circles, Jemison worked locally at the former Boston Redevelopment Agency and Massport and as a deputy undersecretary for the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development during the administration of former Gov. Deval Patrick. Jemison was a planning official for the city of Detroit where he oversaw municipal housing policy as the city emerged from its 2013 bankruptcy.

In his testimony before Congress last year, after his nomination by President Joe Biden for the assistant secretary post at HUD, Jemison recounted five years living in newly-completed public housing in Amherst and how it stabilized his family’s life.

“I know that well-designed and well-maintained public housing and rental assistance can work as part of the American safety net,” Jemison said. “I know this personally because I have lived it.”

Wu Names New Boston Planning Chief

by Steve Adams time to read: 1 min