Boston rolls out city property audit, spotlights big properties for redevelopment

Apartments on the Bunker Hill Community College parking lot? Supportive housing in the old police station? Shops in place of a paid lot in Chinatown?

Mayor Michelle Wu rolled out her audit of city-owned land, saying now is the time for the government to get the process moving on underused lots around Boston.

“Empty parking lots, crumbling buildings – spaces that are ready for transformative community led public development to deliver services for our residents,” Wu told reporters during a Wednesday morning press conference.

Wu said the city had identified 1,238 plots totally 9.5 million feet as vacant or “underutilized.” That’s about 5.4% of the city’s land portfolio, which also includes parks, schools, graveyards and municipal buildings.

That’s why Wu’s “Public Land for Public Good: Citywide Land Audit” that the mayor’s office dropped on Wednesday in keeping with a campaign promise to catalog the city’s various real-estate holdings in hopes of finding spots that the city – with the extra control granted from its ownership stake – could leverage into developments to help with, among other things, sky-high rents and low-threshold housing for the homeless.

The audit pointed to 11 “high-opportunity sites” that the administration particularly touted, generally larger sites that could support denser development. On the housing-the-homeless front, one of the larger spots was the soon-to-be-former A-7 police precinct in East Boston once the cops move out to their new digs on the other side of the neighborhood.

And then there’s the big one – the series of parking lots next to Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown between Rutherfoird Avenue and the highway where Wu suggested denser development could work, though city officials said they would see what the locals wanted.

Asked about what could go on there, Planning Chief Arthur Jemison acknowledged that while he “probably” has “some ideas,” he’d “like to talk to Charlestowners about that.”

Among the other “high-opportunity” locales are the sprawling River Street Boston Public Health Commission campus, a constellation of parking lots just north of the Mass and Cass area, an old public-works lot at 327 Forest Hills St. in Jamaica Plain, a parking lot at 290 Tremont St. in Chinatown, the strip of parking lots at 95-133 Magazine Street in the South End, BPS Central Kitchen in Dorchester and the parking lots in the middle of Sullivan Square in Charlestown.

The city floats the idea of ​​housing – either affordable or supportive, generally – for most of those, but notes that mixed use could be possible in some spots like the Chinatown one.

The myriad other sites, many of which are smaller, could either be infill housing or parks.

Wu declined to put a timeline on the work to redevelop these sites in general, but she and her cabinet members said they are looking to get moving with some larger plans sooner rather than later.

Wu originally pledged to have this audit done in her first 100 days, which was in February. She claimed they did get the audit done by then, but wanted to work up an interactive and clear way of showing it online – so now there’s a portion of the city’s website that hosts maps showing info about city-owned land and the audit.

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