Douglas McGarrah

Co-Chair, Real Estate and Development

I counsel clients navigating at the intersection of business and government.

For over 30 years, clients have relied on Doug’s strategic advice to help them manage government regulations and complete major development and infrastructure projects. Doug is past chair of the firm’s Administrative Law Department and past co-chair of the Real Estate and Development and Infrastructure & Construction practices.

As project counsel, Doug leads and supports multidisciplinary teams focused on expedited permitting and successful development of large scale, mixed use, public and private facilities, commercial centers and office developments, with special expertise and experience on waterfront and transit-oriented developments. He provides advice on project reviews under NEPA, MEPA, wetlands, air emissions, waterways, highway access, historic preservation and zoning-based approvals. He is an expert at managing the public process.

Doug’s experience includes complex site assembly and urban redevelopment, with an extensive and successful record of assisting private parties and public agencies and authorities reach creative solutions to complex development and regulatory compliance and funding issues. Doug has also counseled clients on the implementation of design/build and finance techniques for more effective project delivery and on successful strategies in government procurements. His counsel is frequently sought on a wide variety of issues involving public policy at all levels of government. In summary, Doug knows how to make things happen.

Doug is a trained mediator and has served on Suffolk County and Norfolk County Superior Court Mediation Panels. He has mediated a variety of real estate, environmental and construction disputes and represented clients on large scale projects in multi-party mediations. Most recently, Doug facilitated discussions surrounding public and private funding commitments for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. Leading regular stakeholder meetings over a six-month period, agreement was reached resolving a long-stalled negotiation and the formation and adoption of a new Business Improvement District for the Greenway corridor in Boston.

Doug's experience is enhanced by his substantial senior-level public experience in economic development and large scale infrastructure projects. Before joining Foley Hoag LLP in 1991, he served at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, first as Chief of Staff and later as Chief Legal Counsel for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. He also served for six years as Legislative Assistant/Director of Economic Development in the office of U.S. Senator Paul E. Tsongas, and for two years as a legislative assistant to Massachusetts State Senator (former Congressman) John W. Oliver.


  • Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1986
  • Trinity College, B.A., 1977

Bar and Court Admissions

  • Massachusetts
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit


  • Facilitated negotiations leading to formation of Rose Kennedy Greenway Business Improvement District. 
  • Represented public and private parties on air rights developments over transportation corridors and active rail lines.
  • Counsel to municipality on comprehensive downtown redevelopment program, including relocation of city hall, police station and related developments on brownfields site.
  • Advise and coordinates municipal efforts to redevelop a major TOD site north of Boston, with multiple state agency stakeholders, negotiation of multiple land disposition and development agreements, securing complex federal, state and local environmental approvals and the commitment of federal and state infrastructure funding.
  • Counsel to municipal land bank regarding dispute over statutory authority for project development.
  • Implemented successful strategy to secure major mitigation funding for a suburban retail project resulting in significant infrastructure investment to address and project impacts on regional roadway system.
  • Drafted legislation creating the Metropolitan Highway System in Massachusetts and led permitting efforts for the Central Artery/Tunnel project.
  • Special outside counsel to Mass DOT/MBTA on the Greenbush commuter rail project and on Route 3 North design-build highway expansion project.
  • Assisted two municipalities on comprehensive school building programs, including site assembly and permitting facilities, and the acquisition, remediation and successful redevelopment of key economic development corridor.
  • Represented public and private parties on air rights developments adjacent to and over transportation corridors and active rail lines.
  • Represented major university on campus development associated with new transit service, including negotiating air rights development agreement with MBTA.
  • Counsel to developer on historic property rehabilitation project, including drafting legislative authorization, approval of partial demolition of historic structures and securing comprehensive land use and development approvals.
  • Counsel to Cambridge health research institution on non-profit compliance, intellectual property, investment management and strategic development issues.
  • Assisted national air carrier on all environmental and regulatory approvals for a new terminal facility at Logan International Airport.
  • Project counsel for two successful major museum construction and expansion projects on Boston’s waterfront, involving site assembly, financing and environmental approvals.
  • Developed and implemented successful strategy to modify a proposed urban transit project's planned alignment in order to avoid potential serious institutional disruption to a major medical facility in downtown Boston.
  • Drafted model telecom regulation adopted by Boston Public Improvement Commission for national carriers to build fiber optic networks in the City of Boston.
  • Represented national retailer on multi-site zoning and environmental permitting issues, including state environmental enforcements and disputes.
  • Counsel to commuter rail operator and to tour boat/bus operator on a variety of agency procurement and contract compliance issues.
  • Permitted a university boat house renovation project located on public lands, requiring multiple jurisdictional agency approvals and coordination.
  • Assisted private developer to acquire public land to address safety issues and create expanded site development opportunities, including statutory authorization and securing all state environmental and local approvals.
  • Counsel to private developer on large-scale, complex, Cape Cod redevelopment project, successfully navigating MEPA and Mass DOT approvals.
  • Represented manufacturer in community dispute, resulting in mediated settlement and business relocation in downtown Boston.
  • Represented ski area on successful expansion program, including extensive environmental reviews and approvals under MEPA, related land use approvals and secured a significant extension of underlying ground lease of public lands.
  • Counsel to university on demolition of historic structures to clear site for new law school building.


  • “An Action Plan to Address the Mass. Transportation Crisis; Incremental Repairs of an Out-of-date System Simply Don’t Cut It,” Commonwealth Magazine (September 2019)
  • “Mass. at Climate, Transportation Crossroads; Missing Long-term Investments Needed to Meet Challenges,” Commonwealth Magazine (April 2018)
  • “On Transportation, Turning Grumbling and Frustration into Action,” WBUR Cognoscenti (March 2015)
  • “America’s Government Is Gridlocked. Its Roads Don’t Have To Be,” WBUR Cognoscenti (August 2014)
  • “Driving in the Breakdown Lane,” COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE (December 2010)
  • “Mobility: The forgotten link in Mass.'s economic DNA”, Boston Business Journal (February 2008)
  • Co-author, “Development Reform in Mass. Hinders New Commercial R.E.”, Banker and Tradesman (August 2004)
  • “Time to Rethink Rules for Development in Bay State,” Boston Business Journal (November 2002)
  • Co-author, “In Downturn, Municipalities Hold Key to Telecom Expansion,” Banker and Tradesman (November 2001)

Honors & Involvement

  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America
  • Named Massachusetts “Super Lawyer” by BOSTON MAGAZINE
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating
  • Recognized as a Top Rated Lawyer in Energy, Environmental & Natural Resources by American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell
  • A Better City, Member (1995-present; Clerk (2011-2014), Vice Chair (2014-2018), Chair (2018-2021), Executive Committee (2011-present)
  • Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors (2010-2022) (Member, Transportation and Development Leadership Councils)
  • Boston Harbor Now, Founding Board Member (2016); current Board Member Emeritus 
  • Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Board (2003-2015; Executive Committee, 2008-2015)
  • Boston Harbor Island Alliance, Founding Board Member; Trustee (2002-2016), Chair (2011-2014), Clerk (2015-2016)
  • Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Board of Directors (2002-2011)
  • Mass DOT Transportation Advisory Committee (2010-2014)
  • The Cape Ann Waldorf School, Board of Trustees (2000-2006) Advisory Council (2008-2017)
  • Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Commissioner’s Administrative Hearing Reform Advisory Committee (2004-2007), Commissioner's Facilities of Public Accommodations Advisory Committee (2012-2014)
  • New England Baptist Hospital, Board of Visitors (2007-2010)
  • Environmental League of Massachusetts, Director (1992-2001)
  • Town of Marblehead Conservation Commission, Chair (1992-2000)

Speaking Engagements

  • Speaker, “Financial Challenges and Opportunities Facing Higher Education Amid COVID-19,” Webinar, June 11, 2020  
  • ABC Panel on “Transit Economic Imperatives for the Region”
  • The Boston Foundation Panelist, "The Cost of Doing Nothing: The Economic Case for Transportation Investment in Massachusetts"
  • Boston Bar Association Panelist, "Promoting Sustainability Through Public Service"
  • The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships and the Federal Transit Administration, "Implementation of PPPs for Transit Projects" Workshop 
  • Law Seminars International, "MEPA and NEPA - New developments in implementation, litigation and legislation" Advanced Workshop
  • Environmental Business Council, MEPA Panel Discussion
  • American Conference Institute, “Finding the Best Use for Your Brownfields Site and Getting it Approved”
  • Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, Forum on “Building the Information Superhighway in Massachusetts: Municipalities and the Broadband Revolution”
  • American Public Works and Right-of-Way, Summit on “Telecom Deployment”
  • NAIOP, Conference on “Innovative Infrastructure Financing Opportunities”
  • Boston Bar Association, Environmental Update-Land Use Regulation 
  • Build Boston, Panelist on Smart Growth and Economic Prosperity