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Boston’s Planning-Led Rezoning: Squares + Streets Initiative

Boston’s campaign of planning-led rezoning is proceeding with a recent vote by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) to petition the Zoning Commission for approval of new citywide form-based zoning templates for neighborhood transit nodes and main streets. So-called Squares + Streets zoning would support mixed uses, walkability, adaptive reuse, and infill development at varying levels of intensity, including by reducing the amount of zoning relief required for such projects. 

On April 17, 2024, the Zoning Commission will consider the Squares + Streets zoning package, consisting of a new Boston Zoning Code Article 26, together with updates to Article 8 (Regulation of Uses) that modernize and consolidate listed land uses while cross-referencing sign regulations, parking standards, and administrative rules in other articles. 

Once the templates are adopted, Mattapan will be the first neighborhood onto which the templates will be mapped as part of the BPDA’s implementation of PLAN: Mattapan. BPDA planning staff will conduct six- to nine-month “Small Area Plan” studies to identify other transit nodes and main streets where the templates can be mapped. The first four will be for Roslindale Square, Cleary Square, Codman Square, and Fields Corner. Additional locations will be announced on a rolling basis. Zoning relief via Planned Development Area (PDA) approval will be prohibited within these districts.

The six templates are generally characterized as follows:

  • S-5 Placemaker Squares—High street frontages for business corridors and transit nodes, featuring building heights up to 145’ and floor plates up to 25K sf;
  • S-4 Active Squares—Wide range of active ground floor uses in medium-scale mixed-use buildings, featuring building heights up to 85’/7 stories and floor plates up to 25K sf;
  • S-3 Active Main Street—Larger-scale ground floor destinations with mixed-use upper floors, featuring building heights up to 85’/7 stories and floor plates up to 20K sf;
  • S-2 Main Street Mixed Use—Medium-scale buildings with continuous, active frontages on main streets, featuring building heights up to 65’/5 stories and floor plates up to 15K sf;
  • S-1 Main Street Living—Majority residential with ground floor storefronts and offices, featuring building heights up to 50’/4 stories and floor plates up to 8K sf; and 
  • S-0 Transitional Residential—Residential at the edge of higher density growth areas, featuring building heights up to 50’/4 stories and floor plates up to 4K sf.

All templates allow residential use, and each has detailed dimensional standards and parking requirements in addition to maximum height and floor plate size.

Squares + Streets zoning is a complement to planning studies that are ripening into PDA-focused zoning changes for PLAN: Charlestown, adopted at the close of 2023, and PLAN: Downtown, for which the BPDA intends to publish draft rezoning for public comment this Spring. 

Goulston & Storrs will continue to monitor the impact of Squares + Streets, particularly as Small Area Plan areas are identified. For questions about the information in this advisory, please contact your usual Goulston & Storrs attorney.


real estate, advisory, development land use & zoning