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Boston To Request Developers Going Through City Review To Disclose Diversity Of Project Teams

Mayor Michelle Wu speaking at the press conference for the new DEI policy targeted at private developers.

Developers in Boston will soon be urged to submit details on the diversity of their teams for every project over 20K SF that needs city approval. 

Mayor Michelle Wu and Boston Planning & Development Agency Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison revealed a new diversity, equity and inclusion initiative at a press conference Thursday morning, and the BPDA unanimously voted to approve the plan Thursday afternoon.

The city leaders said the policy will make Boston the first in the country to request private developers to include a DEI plan in their initial proposal to the board. Under the policy, the city will ask that any developer filing proposals for projects over 20K SF include the percentage of people of color, women and minority-owned businesses involved in the development. 

"This is about ensuring that success is spread across our communities while incentivizing sustainable growth and creating transparent, predictable processes," Wu said at the press conference. 

This initiative expands on the policy enacted in 2018 that required any developers bidding on city-owned land to submit a DEI plan. More than 18 projects in the city have moved forward with these plans, including Nubian Square Ascends in Roxbury and Parcel R-1 in Chinatown.

While the selection of developers for city-owned land uses diversity as a key factor in its scoring process, this new policy wouldn't use the diversity plans as a factor in deciding city approvals of private development, at least for now, the Boston Globe reported

"This [policy] would broaden that requirement to give us that information and think carefully and intentionally about building teams and the representation and reflection of our community," Wu said.

The BPDA plans to use this information from the proposals to address underlying equity disparities within the industry and help to create more inclusion of minority voices in the planning and development process. 

“It’s a strong indication of the agency's goals ... in terms of addressing these disparities that have been in place forever," BPDA Deputy Director for Regulatory Planning and Zoning Bryan Glascock said during Thursday's hearing on the plan. 

The commercial real estate industry across the country has struggled to diversify its ranks, with many of the largest firms still having predominately White leadership teams, and this issue is especially prevalent in Boston. Between 2014 and 2019, just 1.2% of the $2.1B in city contracts awarded by Boston went to Black- and- Latino-owned businesses, according to a report published last year by BBC Research and Consulting. 

Also at Thursday's press conference, BPDA announced it will continue its efforts to push for more planning-led development through a series of proposals. The agency has also made a number of hires in recent months including Jemison in April and Deputy Chief of Urban Design Diana Fernandez Bibeau in July.

The agency has also adopted a decarbonization strategy to help all BPDA-owned properties reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and any properties controlled by the agency to reach the goal by 2040. 

UPDATE, AUG. 11, 4:25 P.M. ET: This story has been updated to reflect that the BPDA voted to approve the plan Thursday afternoon. 

CORRECTION, AUG. 12, 5:30 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Boston would require developers to disclose their teams' diversity. The city is urging developers to provide the information. The story has been updated.