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Boston planning agency postpones public meetings as mayor halts most construction

The moves effectively slam the brakes on new development in a city that has seen so much of it

A crane with a flag putting a beam into place on a 13-story building.
The topping-off in early March of the condo building at 100 Shawmut Avenue in the South End.
Davis Companies

The Boston Planning and Development Agency has postponed indefinitely all public meetings having to do with most proposed development projects under review due to concerns about the spread of novel coronavirus.

And Mayor Marty Walsh ordered all regular construction activity throughout Boston suspended as of Tuesday, March 17. Developers and contractors will have a week to institute the suspension.

The first action followed Walsh’s recommendation that any gatherings that might draw more than 25 people be postponed or canceled. Gov. Charlie Baker issued a ban on such gatherings statewide on March 15. The BPDA’s move, announced March 13, effectively halts the development-review process for the city, as the agency is a key stop on the paths of most projects toward construction.

Walsh’s construction suspension is potentially more impactful as it stops work for at least two weeks on projects already underway. The city has been in the midst of a years-long construction boom that has added thousands of apartments, condos, and hotel rooms as well as hundreds of thousands of square feet office and lab space.

The BPDA move specifically deals with projects under review via the agency’s Article 80, which assesses projects based on their possible impacts on transportation, the public realm, the environment, and historic resources. Article 80 does not cover particularly small projects, such as those involving new zoning overlays of less than 1 acre.

The move, though, excludes the BPDA’s monthly board meetings—the last one was March 12—as well as Boston Zoning Commission and Boston Civic Design Commission meetings. These exclusions are due to regulatory and statutory requirements, per the BPDA. The agency also said extra precautions will be taken during these meetings to encourage social distancing, a key measure in combating the spread of coronavirus.

The number of confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases in Massachusetts stood at 164 as of late Sunday afternoon.