The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is the city of Boston’s planning and development department. Pretty much, if you’re planning on building anything of any size (greater than a single-family home), you’ll need to go through the BRA.
Which, for all intents and purposes means, the mayor, Thomas M Menino, has to give the okay, as well.
According to the Globe:
[T]he BRA won’t agree to anything unless it has buy-in from the mayor. Until you have a preliminary plan that can get this support, there is no point in spending millions to get the variances and the dozens of state and local approvals from agencies and boards that hold some sway over nearly every square inch of buildable land in Boston. The mayor won’t give his support if the neighborhood where the building will sit is unhappy. So developers and communities do months of dances, meetings, and revisions to preliminary plans based on feedback.
Then there’s – let’s call a spade a spade here – the legalized extortion known as “linkage.” This is a crucial part of the community buy-in process and includes developer promises of affordable housing units above the required minimums or a new park or a new firetruck or nice street lights or new sidewalks or improvements to the local elementary school – until the community is satisfied with the package being offered. Only then is the mayor happy. And [Chief Planner Kairos Shen] makes sure the entire process has happened before the developer submits what is technically the first official proposal to the BRA.
This is a dance that developers know they must do.
The BRA is loved by some, hated by most. It is seen as either a pal to the developer or a rubber stamp for the Mayor.
I don’t know … at times I think it keeps anything good from being built. I have to say though, they seem to be doing a good job of ushering the Seaport Square project through the mind-numbing community approval process, so that’s good, at least.
Source: The Shaper of Things to Come – By Kris Frieswick, The Boston Globe