On Tuesday, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced the appointment of Peter Meade as the new director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). The move comes two weeks after its current director, Thomas Palmieri, submitted his resignation. Palmieri’s last day will be May 1.
The newspapers have been full of effusive praise for Mr. Meade, a Back Bay resident and born-and-bred Bostonian. He sincerely sounds as though he's a great guy.
Buried deep in each article, however, was the fact that Meade has no redevelopment experience. He has worked in both the public and private sectors, notably at Boston City Hall and for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts but never, from what I can tell, in construction, architecture, or real estate.
Compare his resume with that of out-going director John Palmieri. Palmieri came to Boston after spending several years working on housing initiatives in Hartford, Connecticut, Charlotte, North Carolina, and after 18-years in Providence, Rhode Island under its then-Mayor, Buddy Cianci.
Although the Mayor remarked that Meade “knows Boston” and that, “He can call any CEO in Boston, and they will pick up the phone”, I don’t see how that qualifies him for the position of director. The Boston Business Journal estimates that Boston has 242 commercial projects worth $27.5 billion currently under review, covering 90-million square feet of space. That the city of Boston needs someone with the knowledge and experience of development, its funding and processes, should seem obvious to just about everyone.
The list of un-built projects in Boston is long; there’s Filene's, the hundreds of acres in the Seaport District, the hundreds of acres that Harvard University is sitting on in Allston, and developments new and in-process for the Massachusetts Turnpike, to name just a few.
Meade’s recent experiences include chairman of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and president of the Edward M Kennedy Institute for the US Senate. Neither project is complete - Meade left the Kennedy museum before it broke ground, while the Greenway Conservancy is still foundering in the wake of his departure. (The Conservancy this week resorted to asking for $5 donations from people so it could plant some rosebushes.)
Seeing as Meade will begin his job at the end of his professional career (starting his job at age 65 whereas Palmieri was just 56 years old), you can only wonder why Menino chose him. A mayor who was planning major new initiatives would want someone by his side who had grand visions and was up-to-date on everything that’s going on, far and wide, in regard to real estate, development, and municipal growth and prosperity.
Meade fits none of that criteria.
In my opinion, this was about as “safe” a move as could be by Mayor Menino. I’d even call it ‘lazy’. I think the Mayor only wanted to find a “place-holder” to ride out the rest of the mayor’s current tenure. Any new mayor of Boston will want to put his/her own pick on the board of the BRA. If the Mayor was planning on sticking around awhile, he would have chosen someone else, someone more suitable for a city of our size. I think this move proves he’s no longer thinking very far ahead.
With this pick, the Mayor has guaranteed pretty much nothing will happen until his reign is over.