By Seth Daniel
Special to the Gazette
Looking to become a more friendly and approachable agency, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board approved a contract with Boston-based Continuum to help rebrand the agency as more trustworthy.
The approval came at the BRA’s Thursday meeting, May 12, and allocated no more that $670,000 to the Continuum contract. The contract is part of a larger reform effort by Mayor Martin Walsh and BRA Director Brian Golden to work with the BRA and the public to “re-envision the agency’s identity.”
The BRA has long been a controversial agency in Jamaica Plain and continues to be so. The BRA recently approved the 64 Allandale St. project despite strong vocal opposition and its recent JP/Rox planning study meeting had a large and loud demonstration at it.
The rebranding effort is particularly hard to swallow for some in the South End, Back Bay, and Fenway after a very contentious vote on Urban Renewal earlier this year where many in the neighborhood did not agree with extending the practice.
In the South End recently, a major zoning change on a huge and coveted parcel (The Boston Flower Market) was nearly enacted without any public input—another strike against the public’s trust. That was detailed in particular at the South End Forum meeting on May 10—where many there said that if urban renewal wasn’t in place, such things wouldn’t happen.
The BRA did apologize for the oversight and has agreed to have a City Council hearing on the change before taking any action.
The BRA indicated that the contract and effort by Continuum would be more than just a marketing campaign.
“The collaborative effort will look to create a clear and compelling organizational identity, mission, and set of values that communicate the BRA’s commitment to sound urban planning and economic development strategies in order to inspire greater trust and confidence in the agency,” read a release on the matter from the BRA.
The BRA staff was set to meet recently with Continuum in a day-long session to kick off the effort.
Over the course of the 14-week contract, Continuum will engage with the BRA and the community to chart a path for the agency’s continued transformation. A team of consultants will immerse themselves in the BRA’s work to hear from employees, residents, and other stakeholders about improving the way the BRA interfaces with the public and communicates its values through its branding and workspace.
Opportunities for public engagement will be woven throughout the process, with one of the first actions being a website where people can provide feedback and follow progress.
Continuum is experienced in creating cultural changes within organizations, having worked with a variety of public and private sector organizations on similar projects.
Continuum recently helped the Boston Public Schools define a vision for the future of high school in Boston that was based on robust input from students, educators, administrators, and families. Boston College also worked with Continuum to completely overhaul the school’s core curriculum, which had fallen out of alignment with what students and faculty desired from the courses.