For Back Bay/South End project, is blight right? – Metro US

For Back Bay/South End project, is blight right?

For Back Bay/South End project, is blight right?
Derek Kouyoumjian/Metro

Can the site of a major Back Bay development, close to shopping destinations and multi-million dollar brownstones, be considered “blighted?”

That’s what developers Boston Properties, which plans to build a residential, retail and office project in a plot of land straddling the Back Bay and South End, hope to convince the Boston Redevelopment Authority to approve.

As the Boston Herald first reported this week, Boston Properties, which aims to build a so-called “Back Bay/South End Gateway” at Back Bay station has asked the BRA to consider whether the project would qualify for what could be millions in tax relief.

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Nick Martin, communications director for the BRA, said in an email that the process for deciding whether an area is “blighted” is complicated.

“The important thing to keep in mind with respect to blight is that a development site might meet the legal definition of blight (i.e. a high water table) when the surrounding area might not otherwise seem ‘blighted’ in the traditional sense of the word,” he said. “Blight findings are very specific to the development conditions at a given site. In other words, it’s quite possible to identify blight related to a development site in an area that is otherwise thriving.”

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Here’s the definition of “blight,” according to the BRA’s website:

A designation given to certain development projects within Massachusetts that serve a public purpose or generate economic advancement in areas that are blighted and minimally marketable for private investment. This designation forms a special partnership between the State, the BRA and the developer that results in a streamlined regulatory process and a negotiated alternative tax payment in lieu of real and personal property taxes.

The BRA is not close to making a decision based on the request yet, Martinsaid, adding that there would have to be a public hearing on the issue before a vote to approve it.