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Arthur Jemison Appointed Chief of Planning

Devin Quirk will serve as Deputy Chief for Operations and Organizational Transformation, and the City will hire a Deputy Chief of Urban Design to help drive the Mayor’s vision for planning that builds a Boston with and for everyone.

Affirming a key commitment to reform the City’s development process to elevate planning and ensure that growth delivers the resources to address urgent challenges, Mayor Michelle Wu today appointed James Arthur Jemison II as the City’s inaugural Chief of Planning. In this role, Jemison returns to Boston with the charge to advance the Mayor’s vision for planning that creates a more equitable, resilient, transit-oriented, and affordable city, and aligning development with those goals. Jemison will coordinate and direct all City plans, land use directives, and all related development policies and processes. He will begin his new role in late May.

“With his deep experience across city, state, and federal government tackling housing instability and building more equitable communities, Arthur will help drive our agenda forward to make Boston a city for everyone,” said Mayor Wu. “In this moment of urgent challenge and opportunity, Boston’s growth must reflect the possibilities for our brightest future—from affordable housing and racial equity, to climate resilience and healthy, connected communities.”

"I'm incredibly grateful to Mayor Wu for the opportunity to bring my expertise and passion for equitable development back to Boston,” said Arthur Jemison. “I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Bostonians to reform the development process and create the kind of growth that reflects our values.”

Jemison will have the responsibility of coordinating and elevating the land use planning efforts across all City of Boston department planning teams, including the planning functions of the Boston Transportation Department, the Environment Department, the Mayor’s Office of Housing, Public Works, Public Facilities, Boston Public Schools, Boston Public Libraries and other departments, while ensuring these efforts align into a comprehensive vision for the future of Boston. The Chief of Planning will also play a central role in structurally reforming the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) and leading ongoing planning, zoning and development. As Chief, Jemison will work with the BPDA Board and BPDA staff to advance reforms that ensure a planning-led approach to development review. Mayor Wu will ask the BPDA Board of Directors to appoint Jemison as the BPDA’s director at their next regularly scheduled meeting on May 12, 2022, although Jemison will not receive additional compensation from the BPDA on top of his City of Boston salary.

Jemison is a creative public-private development leader with 28 years of planning and affordable housing expertise, working with community members to create equitable places in Detroit, MI, Washington D.C. and Boston, MA. Most recently before joining the City of Boston, Jemison served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where he led the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) and served as the policy lead and HUD partner for American Cities, Counties, States, and other local units of government. Under Jemison’s leadership, the CPD administered the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and CDBG - Disaster Recovery Funds, as well as the HOME Partnership program, Homelessness Assistance Grants (HAG) and the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), among other funds. 

Jemison joined HUD from the City of Detroit, where he was Group Executive for Planning, Housing & Development, leading the City’s efforts toward equitable growth, working in partnership with Directors of the Housing & Revitalization Department, the Planning & Development Department, the Detroit Land Bank Authority, Detroit Housing Commission, and the Bridging Neighborhoods program. In early 2014, Jemison was recruited by Mayor Michael Duggan to be the Director of the Housing & Revitalization Department for the City of Detroit, to assist as the City recovered from bankruptcy. In that capacity, Jemison led strategy, deployment and management of municipal housing policy and U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) entitlement funding. 

Before going to Detroit, Jemison served as Deputy Undersecretary and Deputy Director for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under Governor Deval Patrick. Prior to that, he held a variety of public and private-sector positions, all related to city planning and urban development, primarily in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. This includes service at Massachusetts Port Authority, Boston Housing Authority, the then-Boston Redevelopment Authority, and in private development work at GLC Development Resources. It also includes service in the District of Columbia, as the City emerged from Control Board management during the first term of Mayor Anthony Williams.

Jemison has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He also holds a Master of City Planning degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellow. Jemison is also a 2021 Spirit of Detroit Award winner, a 2016 Michigan Chronicle Men / Women of Excellence awardee, and a member of the team recognized with the 2013 Robert Larson Public Policy Award for Workforce Housing from the Urban Land Institute, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Mayor Wu also announced today that Devin Quirk will serve as Deputy Chief of Operations & Organizational Transformation under Jemison. In this new role, he will be responsible for implementing Mayor Wu and Chief Jemison’s vision for the transformation of the BPDA as well as overseeing the daily operations of the Agency. Quirk has worked for the City of Boston for over a decade and has held positions in the CFO’s Office, the Mayor’s Office of Housing, and at the BPDA, where he currently serves as Director of Real Estate. He holds a Masters in Public Policy and Urban Planning from the Harvard Kennedy School and will bring significant experience in community development, real estate finance, and affordable housing creation to the role. He and his family live in Charlestown where they are a proud Boston Public Schools family. 

“I am honored that Mayor Wu and Chief Jemison have asked me to take on this challenge,” said Quirk. “This is a unique moment in Boston’s history, and we have the opportunity to bring together the talented staff at City Hall with community members to shape the future of how development happens in Boston. I am committed to helping our team make thoughtful changes to systems and structures, build trust with communities, and advance the inclusive growth of our incredible City.”

In the weeks ahead, Mayor Wu and Chief Jemison plan to open recruitment efforts to attract planning and urban design professionals, including the first-ever Deputy Chief of Urban Design to elevate the importance of design on this new leadership team. New hires will add capacity to the existing and talented staff, while also creating a transformation-oriented workforce capable of executing a new approach to planning and development in Boston.

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