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Walsh announces new reforms at Boston Redevelopment Authority

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After hearing feedback from the Boston community over the past two years about the direction of Boston’s planning agency, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced on Tuesday an effort to overhaul the organizational identity of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. With the overall goal of better serving the people of Boston and inspiring greater trust and confidence in the city’s planning agency, the initiative will establish an identity, mission and values for the organization that are reflective of the Walsh Administration’s commitment to smart and sound urban planning and positive economic development, and that are reflective of the critical reforms already underway.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority will issue a Request for Proposals on Monday for a strategic advisor, pending approval at the Board of Director’s meeting on Thursday, to assist in the development of an organizational identity and brand strategy that builds on the ongoing reforms.

“While we have implemented significant change at the Boston Redevelopment Authority over the past two years, this is another opportunity to improve city government and take a hard look at an agency that has a difficult legacy to overcome,” Walsh said. “We are committed to transparency and accountability as we move forward, and creating a new identity for the Boston Redevelopment Authority will be an important symbol of change that underscores this progress.”

Under Walsh’ leadership, the BRA underwent two independent operational reviews that identified challenges facing the agency and opportunities for improvement. Since then, new policies have been enacted to provide better accountability for land takings and transfers. The agency has upgraded its technology to better enforce compliance with respect to lease agreements for its properties. Additionally, a director of real estate was hired in January to optimize the BRA’s portfolio and ensure that key holdings are redeveloped.

In response to calls for more proactive and comprehensive planning, the BRA’s Planning Division, now under new leadership, has initiated several in-depth neighborhood planning studies. This work is currently underway in Jamaica Plain, South Boston and Dudley Square, and BRA planners are striving to engage and collaborate with residents in new ways to ensure these initiatives are responsive to needs and reflective of shared community visions.

“We have taken a holistic approach to fixing troublesome issues by strengthening our policies, making more information available to the public, staffing up in areas that were under resourced, and taking a fresh approach to the way we work with communities,” said Brian Golden, Director of the BRA. “With substantive reforms fully underway, we now have an opportunity to address our brand, which in many ways hasn’t been altered since our inception.”

The project will be informed largely by feedback that has been received from community members and outside organizations about how to enhance BRA’s operations and strengthen public trust around its core mission of planning and economic development. Once a firm is hired for the job, additional community outreach will be conducted to help craft the agency’s new identity.

The scope of work for the RFP is being finalized this week, but officials expect it to address a range of issues including what defines the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s organizational identity, how those values are communicated through its branding and how to create opportunities for public feedback during the process. The strategic advisor will also be expected to provide assistance in the development of implementation strategies for any recommendations. The project’s cost will be established during the selection process.

Once issued, the RFP will be on the Boston Redevelopment Authority website: http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/work-with-the-bra/rfps-rfqs-bids.