Sara Li

MCP, MS RE Development
Department of Urban Studies and Planning

How Developers Negotiate Zoning and Public Benefits: Two Case Studies in Downtown Boston

Large-scale real estate developments present unique challenges for planners to determine the optimal provision of public benefits. This thesis seeks to unpack how developers and city planning officials negotiate zoning amendments and determine how much public benefits matter throughout the approvals process.

I look to two case studies in Boston’s downtown: the Ritz-Carlton Complex and One Lincoln Street. The projects resulted in significant public benefits provided to the city; furthermore, to the developer, the quantified price tag of those public benefits had more influence on the success of the project than the numbers might suggest. Developers and planners who can understand the full spectrum of issues will likely be more successful in negotiating future agreements for zoning reliefs and public benefits.

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