The Power of Ideas: Sara Myerson

What will the city look like at its quadricentennial in 2030? Ask Sara Myerson. —By Karen Weintraub

Sara Myerson Imagine Boston 2030

Photograph by Trevor Reid

“I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away,” Mayor Marty Walsh famously declared when Boston abandoned its bid for the 2024 Olympics. But Boston hasn’t abandoned its eye on the future. It’s just focused on a slightly more distant horizon: the city’s 400th birthday.

The person in charge of Walsh’s ­Imagine Boston 2030 initiative is Sara Myerson, who not coincidentally was also briefly the mayor’s point person on the Olympics effort. Myerson’s background spans the public and private spheres: She’s a former Goldman Sachs analyst with a master’s from Harvard in urban planning, and served as director of policy for an affordable-housing nonprofit in Boston. After the Olympics effort collapsed, she transitioned to lead Boston 2030, a two-year push to consider the city’s land use and development. The creation of a citywide master plan is an enormous task—Boston’s last plan dates to 1965—encompassing everything from arts and culture to transportation, development, and the environment.

Myerson says that Imagine Boston 2030 will involve lots of public outreach, and will focus on three questions: What elements of the city should be preserved? What should be enhanced? And where are the best areas for growth—particularly for housing more middle- and working-class residents? Some elements of the Olympic plan may resurface—for instance, the city is exploring development of the Widett Circle site, once slated for an Olympic stadium. With Boston 2024 “there was a very active discussion about planning in the city,” Myerson says. And now “there’s an opportunity to leverage that energy about planning as we look to Imagine Boston 2030.”

In many ways, “the process here is just as important as the end product,” Myerson says. “We’re looking for a way to weave together all the different pieces of the puzzle so that we can create a shared vision for the city. We want a thriving, healthy, innovative city for all.”