Boston Completes Audit of City-Owned Land, Looks to Utilize Public Space for Public Good

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Hundreds of city-owned properties were identified as being underutilized in a newly completed audit of city-owned land.

“In a city as dense and already developed as Boston, these parcels identified in the land audit represent rare opportunities to utilize public space for the public good,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Parking lots and vacant spaces across our city have the potential to be transformed into providing crucially needed affordable housing, green space, and community services. I look forward to a robust engagement process to ensure our planning process reflects the needs of our residents.”

In total, 1,238 out of 2,976 city-owned parcels were identified as vacant or underutilized. The 2,976 properties totaled 176.9 million square feet. Most of them are "modestly sized" and the report identified a number of high opportunity sites to prioritize for community planning efforts, according to a press release.

There were three main goals guiding the audit: to ensure safe, healthy affordable housing; addressing homelessness through a public health lens; and identifying transformative community development and high quality open space opportunities across the city.

Data points used in the audit included looking at square footage of the site, with more than 900 parcels identified were between 5,000 to 9,999 square feet. Departmental care of the properties was also identified. Other stats included:

  • 345 sites or 28% of vacant or underutilized parcels (2.9 million square feet) are currently undergoing an active disposition process for the future reuse.
  • 526 sites or 42% of vacant or underutilized parcels (4.3 million square feet) are in the pipeline of an existing program for future disposition.
  • 261 sites or 21% of vacant or underutilized parcels (0.7 million square feet) present little opportunity for development or community use and should not be considered further for advancing community oriented development.

The report identified several high priority sites that will be studied and prioritized for affordable housing and large scale development opportunities including 327 Forest Hills St. in Jamaica Plain. That site is a former Public Works Department pole yard and currently is used to support city winter operations and recycling. This parcel is immediately adjacent to a large MBTA parcel, and full buildout of the combined sites has been contemplated as part of PLAN: JP/Rox.

Three Jamaica Plain-based Boston Transportation Department municipal parking lots were included as being underutilized: 11 Thomas St. (44,343 sq. ft.); 490-496 Centre St. (23,986 sq. ft.); and 350-356 Centre St. (8,806 sq. ft.).

Also, a Paul Gore Street (6,571 sq. ft.) vacant parcel was listed as being part of an existing department process to be evaluated for a future project.