BPDA Officially Launches Office to Residential Conversion Program

Boston – The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) has officially launched the Downtown Residential Conversion Incentive Pilot Program, which provides a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) incentive to developers who will be converting office buildings into residential buildings.

The goal of the program, which was introduced this summer, is to support owners and developers of older commercial office building space in converting to residential units, while also increasing the housing stock in Downtown Boston. Though the targeted areas for this program are downtown office buildings, projects throughout the city will also be considered on a case by case basis.

The BPDA board approved a demonstration project plan area in Downtown Boston which will help to facilitate the conversion of offices to residential buildings. The plan area encompasses the Downtown/Financial District, Chinatown, the Bulfinch Triangle Historic District, the Leather District, and the Fort Point Channel Historic District. The plan is designed to respond to post-pandemic economic shifts that will put more priority on expanding housing options downtown, to improve downtown activation.

The program, which is now officially accepting applications, is being administered jointly by the BPDA, Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH), and the City of Boston Finance Cabinet to help meet city goals of creating housing units downtown and having more consistent foot traffic throughout the week to support downtown businesses. The program may be modified to acknowledge and respond to changing market conditions.

BPDA staff are coordinating with federal and state officials on potential short-term grant opportunities to create additional benefits for property owners seeking to convert an office building. The application will remain open through June 2024, with approvals given on a rolling basis. Applicants to the program would commit to pull a full building permit and start construction by October 2025. The city’s program is designed to recognize the benefits to increasing economic activity in Downtown Boston by increasing residents in that neighborhood.

BPDA staff will review applications for appropriateness to the goals of the program, project feasibility, and ability to meet timeline requirements prior to application approval. Projects that trigger large project review will follow the Article 80 regulatory process, including a minimum of one public meeting. The program requires adherence to the updated Inclusionary Development Policy as approved by the BPDA board in July, as well as building to the new recently-adopted state energy stretch code. These projects will also receive the support of the new ombudsperson’s office at the BPDA to help with streamlining the permitting process with other city departments following BPDA board approval.