The Israel-Boston Connection
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|Bostonians who recently visited Haifa, Israel (and returned to tell NEWiRE about it), found it beat us when it came to planning. We know that stings, but just remember Israel's had 6,000 years to get the process right. Maybe this is just local pride speaking, but we say we can do it in 3,000. (By "it" we mean get a building permit.)|
|In a packed Four Seasons dining room last week, we snapped Northeastern U's Michael Lake (head of the Sister City program), NEWiRE president Joan Parsons, and panelists Riemer & Braunstein?s Bob Buckley, H.N. Gorin?s Roz Gorin, and NEU dean and economist Barry Bluestone. Barry says compared to pro-active Haifa, Boston, while great, has a certain complacency that doesn?t lead to great planning. In Haifa, he says, projects move swiftly; in Boston, permitting for projects can still be cumbersomeand costly. Case in point: To renovate his Cambridge kitchen(which like most others is inside his house) Barry says he needed permits from the historic commission and faced ?barrier after barrier.?|
|Roz, here with Joan after lunch, says Boston could spur more development in the Seaport Innovation District if it lowered (or even eliminated) property taxes. Since rents must exceed taxes by 15% to 20%, landlords who could appreciably lower rates would ?get a lot of attention,? she says. Roz also encourages city officials to provide as much publicly owned land as possible at little or no cost for commercial development. Again, the developers who built on it could offer tenants dream deals. Ever the practical CRE pro, Roz also suggested that the Seaport could be more pedestrian-friendly if the city allowed developers greater density.|
|Bob tells us that Haifa has a ?get it done? development mentality. If the mayor wants to move the seaport, the attitude is, here's the vision and the tools, let?s do it now and—if necessary—re-do it later. And that's why they don't suffer from a fear of failure. In one of its innovation districts, Haifa has attracted technology companies like Google and Intel, using tax incentives and access to low-cost land. A key for Boston's Innovation District at the Seaport will be to attract such tech firms and their young workers with new 24/7 retail and housing.|