John T. Smolak
Partner & Co-founder
(978) 327-5215
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BiographyPractice AreasRepresentative ExperienceProfessional and Community InvolvementPublications and Mentions

About John


Boston College Law School
Columbia Univ. – School of International and Public Affairs, M.P.A.
Univ. of Mass. at Amherst, summa cum laude, B.A.

Bar Admissions

New Hampshire

Accolades & more

Recognized in Best Lawyers - New England© for his work in Real Estate Law, 2022

Martindale Hubbell Peer Review Rated AV Preeminent TM, 2022
Massachusetts Super Lawyer, 2004

Legends of the Industry Award, Homebuilders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, 2020


John is well–known regionally for his expertise in complex land use, environmental and economic development transactions, representing for-profit, non-profit and quasi-governmental organizations.  Prior to co-founding the firm, John was the Co-Chair of the Real Estate & Environmental Practice Group
of Burns & Levinson LLP in Boston.

John brings to his practice particular expertise in governmental permitting, structuring public/private partnerships with state and local governments on behalf of developer clients involving complex mixed-use redevelopment projects, securing zoning amendments, and local, state and federal entitlements for projects frequently involving federal and state tax incentives and subsidies, negotiating development agreements often involving urban redevelopment projects, warehouse and distribution facilities, and multifamily housing projects.

He regularly counsels developers on the requirements for satisfying the complex land use and environmental laws and regulations applicable to large-scale industrial warehouse and e-commerce , commercial, and multifamily and mixed use residential projects throughout the region.  His expertise is deepest in complex permitting matters, building on his frequent participation in state-level regulatory, policy and rulemaking efforts involving land use and environmental matters affecting residential and commercial real estate development.   

A significant portion of John's current development practice involves working with clients on affordable and market-rate multifamily residential projects where he has been involved in the permitting of over 3,000 residential units, frequently involving public-private redevelopment partnerships using state and federal economic development incentives.  He also regularly advises clients on environmental compliance with federal, state, and local laws governing oil or hazardous materials, solid waste and recyclable materials, water pollution control, occupational health and safety, and historic preservation matters.

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Practice Areas

  • Land Use Development, Zoning and Permitting
  • Affordable & Multifamily Housing
  • Industrial Warehouse, E-commerce, Distribution & Logistics
  • Environmental Compliance and Enforcement
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Representative Experience

  • Represent Dallas,TX-based developer in a 4.2 million square feet redevelopment of a former  Lucent Technologies facility, including the development of a new 3.83 million s.f. e-commerce distribution facility, the largest Amazon distribution facility in New England. Secured MassWorks Infrastructure grant, moved an existing 6 MW solar facility on-site, and negotiated a development agreement and tax increment financing agreement for facility expected to generate 1,500 full time jobs when opened in Q3 2022.
  • Represent regional developer in the adaptive reuse and conversion of a 700,000+ s.f. historic  textile mill complex into a mixed office, light industrial, residential and retail complex involving the rezoning to create historic mill overlay district, the extension of Economic Target Area designation  from adjacent City to enable use of historic tax credits and other economic development benefits,  and federal, state and local entitlements.
  • Represented manufacturer in the acquisition and permitting of the redevelopment of a 121,000 s.f. manufacturing facility located within a Federal Opportunity Zone, including securing all entitlements for both manufacturing and self storage uses.
  • Represent regional developer of a 2.8 million square foot warehouse and logistics center on a former golf course in Southern New Hampshire.
  • Represent a Pennsylvania-based private equity firm in the permitting of a 130,000 s.f. warehouse facility located south of Boston.
  • Represented Washington, DC-based private equity firm in permitting of 90-unit assisted living facility in its first Massachusetts project.
  • Represent New York-based private equity firm in development of multifamily residential project. 
  • Represent developer of 92-unit assisted living facility on former industrial site, involving US EPA Brownfields remediation funding and MassDEP beneficial use determination for on-site re-use of demolition materials.
  • Represent developers in permitting of mixed use redevelopment involving 196 multifamily rental units and 43,000 s.f. retail/office use, including the award of MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Funding for traffic improvements.
  • Represented New York-based private equity firm in the development of a senior housing complex using Chapter 40B.
  • Represented non-profit community development corporation in permitting and conversion of former high school building physically connected to Town Hall into 66 units of independent-living senior affordable housing and a senior/community center. 
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Professional and Community Involvement

  • Member, Board of Directors, University of Massachusetts Building Authority (2015-Present)
  • Chair, Governmental Affairs Committee, Homebuilders & Remodelers Association of Massachusetts (2015-2021)
  • Member, Governor’s Economic Development Planning Council (2015)
  • Member, Housing Advisory Group, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Member, Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Advisory Committee (2021-Present)
  • Former Member of Board of Directors, Governance Committee, Executive Committee, and Clerk, Special Olympics Massachusetts, Inc.
  • Member, Environmental Law Section, Boston Bar Association (Former Member, Environmental Law Section Steering Committee, and former Co-Chair of the Wetlands and Waterways Committee)
  • Former Co-Chair, Environmental Committee, National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (Massachusetts Chapter)
  • Zoning and Wetlands Subcommittee, Governor’s Special Commission on Barriers to Housing Development
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Publications and Mentions

  • In Person Profile, “An Evolving Approach to the Entitlement Process,” Banker & Tradesman by Steve Adams (July 2022)
  • “How to Make Distribution Centers Work for Everyone,” Opinion, Commonwealth Magazine (August 2022)
  • Quoted in “The Rise Of The Mega Builder--Why New Trend Might Be A Mixed Blessing For The Bay State,” Banker & Tradesman by Scott Van Voorhees (2013)
  • Quoted in “Mass. likely to mirror U.S. Starts,” Boston Herald by Banker & Tradesman (2013)
  • Banker & Tradesman Quoted in Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis. Benjamin W. Powell Randall G. Holcombe (December 31, 2011)  Transaction Publishers.
  • “It’s Time for Zoning Rules to Ride the Bio Ready Wave,” Banker & Tradesman (2008)
  • After the Comprehensive Permit”  What’s Up in a Down Market—Keeping Current with Chapter 40B, Panelist at Mass. Dept. of Housing and Community Development Seminar. (2008)
  • "Cases Stack Up At The Housing Appeals Committee" Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (2004)
  • Quoted in “GETTING HOME--Overcoming Barriers to Housing in Greater Boston,” by Charles C. Euchner, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy and Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston (2003)