August 22, 2004

Whiter Rte. 495?

That's the question Sam Allis asks in the Observer column in today's Sunday Globe. He believes that development action is moving back to Boston while the current tech bust has put major corporate development around Rte. 495 on hold.

"The buzz is back in our much-maligned urban core," Allis maintains, arguing that "Big I-495 players that own swaths of land along the corridor have tabled many development plans."

Demographics aren't hurting either -- McMansions on McTwoAcreLots are likely to appeal to couples with school-age kids; aging, empty-nest baby boomers may be more likely to sell their larger homes and move back to a more traditional walkable community or urban atmosphere.

The high-tech industry will eventually regain its health and exurban office development is likely to resume at some point, Allis adds. However, without "smart, strategic planning ... the same dumb expansion will simply continue."

Mass transit isn't possible in exurban towns with 2-acre zoning -- there's simply not the population density to support it. And Allis believes that while Gov. Romney talks about smart growth, he's not spending any political capital to actually get plans implemented.

''Unless there's strategic planning from the governor's office, the whole concept of smart growth won't take off," says David Magnani, state senator from Framingham.

In addition, it's going to be tough to sell towns like Framingham, which justifiably believe they've already done far more than their regional fair share in providing affordable and/or multifamily housing, on doing some denser development if so many nearby snob-zoned communities remain far from the 10% affordable housing threshold.

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