Brookline, Mass., approves multifamily housing in major commercial corridor

Voters in Brookline, Massachusetts, approved a plan to rezone its major commercial corridor, ushering in a new era of development that includes apartment buildings.

The decision, voted on by residents on Tuesday, marks a significant departure from the town’s traditional zoning policies and reflects a national trend in urban planning, the Boston Globe reported.

The rezoning, which will accommodate mixed-use developments, aims to address housing shortages, foster economic growth, and create a more vibrant and diverse community.

The town’s commercial corridor, a bustling hub of businesses and shops, has long been limited by zoning regulations to commercial use.

But now Brookline’s residents have opted for a modern approach. The plan allows construction of four-story, multifamily buildings along the corridor, which is largely around Harvard Street, including Brookline Village, Coolidge Corner, and JFK Crossing.

The rezoning initiative sparked extensive community debate, with residents participating in public forums, town hall meetings and discussions to voice their opinions and concerns. Proponents of the plan emphasized the need for more housing options, especially affordable units, while opponents worried about changes to the town’s character and the impact on traffic and infrastructure.

But in the end, the majority of Brookline residents supported the rezoning.

The decision aligns with regional and national trends in urban planning, with communities reevaluating traditional zoning practices to address housing shortages and promote sustainable development.

“The last time Brookline changed its base zoning was 50 years ago when the town codified the car-dependent land use ideals prevalent at the time,” Katha Seidman, a housing advocate, told the Boston Globe. “We have an opening to begin redesigning our community around walkable, inclusive and carbon-free neighborhoods.”

— Ted Glanzer

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