Boston’s First Parking-Free Condo Development Is On Its Way

It's a big first that's been a long time coming.

Several years after Mayor Menino famously declared that “the car is no longer king in Boston,” the Boston Redevelopment Authority took notice and approved the first parking-free condo development.

It’s a 15-story, 175-unit building in the West End, and the BRA voted in favor of eliminating a previously approved parking garage, buying into the developer’s assertion that nearby garages and transit options would satisfy the increased demand.

The city usually requires residential developers in downtown areas to build at least one parking space for every two residences. The issue of whether and when to loosen that rule is contentious. Menino’s administration has backed off it in recent years on the theory that if you don’t build it, the cars won’t come. As in, if you don’t make space for cars, there will be fewer cars on the roads to cause traffic and strain the city’s infrastructure.

But any proposal that doesn’t provide parking for new residences is usually met with suspicion by the car-owning neighbors, who argue it won’t actually reduce the number of cars, just the number of spaces to put them. A well-publicized attempt to develop a building in Allston that would have asked residents to agree not to even own a car didn’t meet with success. And the grumbling is present in the West End, too.  “It’s now easier to park on the street in the Back Bay than it is in the Bulfinch Triangle,” a nearby resident tells the Boston Globe this week.

There’s a reason for that on-street competition apart from sparse private parking. As we’ve argued before, street parking in Boston is too competitive because its too cheap. Demanding private parking spaces be built along with residences in Boston isn’t the only solution to the headache. But that’s another battle.

The point is that, as with any transit issue, not everyone is pleased with this new development. Still, the way Menino’s administration has been moving, it was bound to happen. So at last, at the very least, we can see whether warnings from the doom and gloom crowd will be born out.