When developers acquire a large parcel of land, it’s easy to focus on the exciting aspects of the project: the design, the ribbon cutting, and the profit, for example. All the legal hurdles and process pieces feel like old hat — a little dull, and certainly nothing to get excited about.
But if you live in the community surrounding that parcel of land, new development can feel mysterious and even a little scary. Neighbors and abutters have lots of questions and concerns, and part of their angst stems from feeling like they’re left in the dark about what’s going on. To alleviate their fears and get the community behind your project, it really pays to invest in some outreach and education — and maybe even going the extra mile on getting community input to your project before you finalize plans and break ground.
In particular, residents near your Boston development are concerned about four big issues above all else:
You don’t have to be born and raised in Boston to know that the narrow streets don’t provide much parking for existing residents, much less a new development. Year after year, one of the biggest concerns residents have is is about how new development will impact their ability to snag a parking space — especially in the winter, when it’s even harder to find a spot while people are digging out. Adding parking might be costly, but it’s a great way to alleviate a major concern and even make some allies for your plan if you can add available spaces for neighbors, too.
On the other side of the parking coin is traffic in the area. After all, when you open up more space for cars, you get more cars on local streets and even nearby highways, and this affects everyone’s quality of life. Neighbors will be worried about safety for their kids, cyclists and pedestrians as well the simple matter of getting out of their driveway or back home from work in a timely manner. Detailed traffic studies are crucial, and you may need to get creative to offset any negatives about the extra traffic your development creates.
Boston is changing, and long-time residential neighborhoods like Southie and Dorchester are often great places to take advantage of a lag in development to snap up a great parcel. As this continues, residents are beginning to speak up about density concerns. This is especially true when single-family homes and triple deckers are removed in favor of multi-story buildings and mixed-use development. It’s crucial to remain sensitive to concerns about the character of the neighborhood, even though these discussions are often emotionally charged and not easy to quantify.
4. Noise and Blasting
Most laymen don’t know what ledge removal is, but they will care — deeply — when it means having to blast away granite or run loud rock breaking equipment for days or weeks at a time. It’s critical to be upfront about blasting and the additional noise and disruption that your project will cause. It’s also important to note that the idea of blasting scares many neighbors, who have concerns about their homes’ foundations and their families’ safety. Education is key to keep everyone calm if you have to remove rock and ledge early in your project.
When you’re planning your new development project in Boston and eastern Massachusetts, it’s important to talk to abutters early and often to hear their concerns and allay their fears. When you focus on education and collaboration, you can create allies that will pave the way for a successful project.