Jim O’Connell Bio


James C. (Jim) O’Connell teaches in the City Planning-Urban Affairs Program at Boston University. IN Fall, 2020, Jim will be teaching a new course with Professor William Koehler on Globalization, Pandemics, and Planning. He also teaches The Planning & Development of Metropolitan Boston.

Drawing on his personal planning experience and his writing, Jim gives “urbanist” walking tours of Greater Boston, focusing on recent development projects while placing them in an historical context. His itineraries include Boston’s Seaport District, North Station-West End, Downtown, and Fenway-Longwood.

He has a B.A. from Bates College and a Ph.D. in American Urban and Cultural History from the University of Chicago.

Jim O’Connell has worked as a Planner at the Boston Office of the Northeast Region of the National Park Service, where he specialized in planning historic sites and heritage areas. Before joining the National Park Service, Jim served as Economic Development Officer of the Cape Cod Commission, the regional planning and land use regulatory agency for Cape Cod. Jim also worked on urban redevelopment issues in Springfield, MA, as Deputy Executive Director, Springfield Redevelopment Authority; Deputy Commissioner of Community Development for Neighborhoods; Associate Director, Springfield Central Inc. (private nonprofit downtown revitalization organization); and Executive Director, Hampden County Energy Office.

Jim has written many articles and six books on planning and New England history. His latest book is Dining Out in Boston: A Culinary History (2016). Previous books include The Hub’s Metropolis: Greater Boston’s Suburban Development from Railroad Suburbs to Smart Growth (2013), Becoming Cape Cod: Creating a Seaside Resort (2003), The Pioneer Valley Reader (1995), Shaping an Urban Image: Downtown Planning in Springfield, Massachusetts (1990), and The Inside Guide to Springfield and the Pioneer Valley (1986). He has written essays on regional planning and civic leadership for two editions of Governing Greater Boston (2002, 2003), an annual public policy review published by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Jim has also taught in the Sustainable Design Program at the Boston Architectural College and Regional Planning at UMass-Amherst. Jim is a member of the American Institute for Certified Planners (AICP) and is a LEED Green Associate. He is involved is smart growth and regional planning issues in Massachusetts. He is chair of the Massachusetts Land Use Reform Working Group. He lives with his wife Ann Marie in Newton, MA.