BOSTON-In a controversial move designed to encourage residential development in the city, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has voted to recommend that development projects within the financial district be allowed up to an extra 225 feet in height.

Meredith Baumann, a spokesperson for the BRA, tells that the new zoning would be an amendment to the downtown Interim Planning Overlay District. She notes that the increased height, up to 350 feet, would only be allowed in projects that have up to a 50% residential component.” We want to create 24-hour mixed-use activity,” she says. “We want to bring life to the financial district after work hours.”

In order to qualify for the increased height, the residential projects would also need to designate 10% of the housing units as affordable. Projects with 20% affordable housing can extend to heights up to 400 feet.

The amendment needs to be approved by the city’s zoning commission, which is due to meet on Jan. 17. But Baumann emphasizes that it has already gone through “extensive review,” including a number of public meetings as well as discussions with the city’s landmark and conservation commissions. As to the potential concern that such tall buildings would restrict views, Baumann points out that the “view corridors are not as much of an issue as encouraging residential development there.” But she adds that even if the zoning commission passes the amendment, each project will still be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Baumann says that the city developed the zoning amendment with certain parcels in mind. Baumann could not specify which sites are under consideration, but she says that the city “contemplated parcels that weren’t under single ownership” because the assumption is that at some point those parcels would be freed up.” She emphasizes that the new zoning could add over 2,000 residential units to the city stock.

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