«We envision a future in which Boston has multiple reliable modes of transportation, parks that connect communities and diverse cultural offerings that reflect our traditions and the dynamism of our future».
This is how the Boston city government’s website describes its "Imagine Boston 2030" project. This large urban redevelopment plan will enable the city to modernise its infrastructure and improve quality of life in the space of just over 10 years. The government shared the plan with voters by asking 15,000 residents between 2016 and 2017 what they thought were Boston’s most pressing needs. The answers were incorporated into the project.
Rewriting the waterfront
The first among the projects launched by “Imagine Boston 2030” is a modernisation of the city’s waterfront designed not just by the authorities, but by residents themselves. Over 1,700 people gave their input and ideas on ways to improve the waterfront, and once again transport topped the list. The plan that was approved calls for an increase in ferry connections between East Boston and Charleston, Downtown and the Seaport, but also water taxi service on the Charles River and Mystic River.
But that’s not all, because the idea is to exploit the waterfront by increasing the number of offices, homes and public meeting places, creating an area that will become a new calling card for Boston. Special attention is given to water management, making Boston the latest example of a large U.S. city to undertake a recovery plan for its river (like Washington, D.C.). The “Imagine Boston 2030” plan calls for riverbank infrastructure, the creation of a modern waste management system and installation of flood management barriers.
Getting the city moving
The city administration’s second goal is to upgrade the public transportation network in the coming years, which is congested and makes connections with the outlying areas of the city difficult.
The latest INRIX index that analyses traffic around the world put Boston in 14th place in terms of traffic congestion. Traffic is getting worse, with residents now spending 60 hours a year blocked in traffic games compared to 58 hours a year ago, the study released February 2018 said.
And some 30% of residents on the edges of the city are not adequately served by public transport. The city’s subway system and dedicated bus lanes are no longer enough, so the city has decided to launch new infrastructure works in the coming years that will help modernise mobility, including the extension of the Green Line to Hyde Square and the Orange Line to Roslindale Square.
In the short term, the city is inaugurating preferential traffic lanes for public transport, as well as bike lanes reserved for cyclists. These projects are all part of a “Go Boston 2030” plan that sets an ambitious goal: no household will be farther than 10 minutes away from a bus or subway stop.
Boston’s urban re-development plans, and the enthusiasm they spark among the city’s residents, have not escaped the attention of large corporations and investors.
Boston is seen as one of the leading candidates to win a hotly contested race to be chosen by Amazon for its new second headquarters, or HQ2.
«We are excited to present the best of Boston to Amazon, with support from leaders in the educational, business and philanthropic communities and our neighbors in Revere, as the company considers locations for their second corporate headquarters in North America», he said in October when making the presentation.
Boston is in first place to win the contest for Amazon’s HQ2, according to predictions made by a stock-picking robot in March. The city’s redevelopment plan could be a factor. Amazon is already renting more office space in the city.
Amazon will decide this year which city wins the contest to host its HQ2, and Boston is among the finalists. The company is promising to invest $5 billion in the next 15 years in the winning city, creating 50,000 jobs.
Amazon is already an investor in Boston, along with many other companies. Since 2014, 60,000 jobs have been created and unemployment has fallen from 6.1% in 2013 to 3.4% in 2016. Moreover, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has picked Boston as the best city in the U.S. for supporting successful tech industries.
The impact of a city that changes
Everything is possible in a cosmopolitan city where 29% of the population is born outside the U.S. in 100 different countries, according to a report from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Diversity, in a city that boasts some of the most prestigious universities in the world, is an added value.
The city’s transformation will contribute to population growth. According to the city government, the population should rise to 724,000 by 2030 from 656,000. This growth trend will have a number of knock-on effects: the number of workers will grow to 829,000 from a 719,000; demand for new housing units is seen at 53,000 by 2030 and demand for new commercial real estate will grow to six million square metres. Right now there are 25,000 dwellings in the development pipeline, which should partly satisfy the demand for new housing. The city is on the move. Vitality is everywhere, and in the coming years it will rewrite the face of the city.