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‘Rethinking the Suburban Strip’: MAPC study looks at retrofitting struggling retail sites

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  Could the humble strip mall hold the keys to unlocking a thriving economic future for the suburbs of Greater Boston? New research released this week by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in Boston tackled this very question, with eye-opening results.

  Ubiquitous and evocative of a bygone era, suburban strip malls today are often outdated, plagued by vacancies and filled with unmet potential. In a new report, “Rethinking the Suburban Strip,” MAPC analyzed more than 3,000 strip malls and similar shopping centers across Greater Boston, then set out to understand the potential impacts of redeveloping them. Could they help close gaps in access to affordable housing, transportation and more?

  The report found that if just 10 percent of the strip malls were redeveloped into mixed-use projects, 124,000 homes could be created, increasing building values to the tune of $479 million in extra tax revenue for host communities. What’s more, if new developments are built using the state’s 40R smart growth zoning bylaw, municipalities could be eligible for payments totaling $1.2 billion upon rezoning, an average of $3.2 million per site. In addition, because nearly 30 percent of sites studied were within a half mile of transit, rezoning them could also help communities meet strict new state regulations requiring multifamily zoning within the MBTA region.

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