Seaport: The Hottest Neighborhood in Boston
If attendance is any indicator, the record-breaking 700 registrants at NAIOP’s “Windows on the Waterfront” event confirmed that the newly-rebranded Innovation District in the Boston Seaport district is indeed hot. This is the year when the long-awaited neighborhood became a reality, spurred in large part by two key events – Vertex’s initial commitment to lease two buildings ( 1.1 million sq. ft.) on Fan Pier, and Cresset’s opening of Liberty Wharf to the wild acclaim of restaurant and bar aficionados.
However, as the NAIOP audience learned, that is just the beginning for development in this area. In an outstanding overview of the neighborhood, David Manfredi described the “promise” of this new district as:
- A vibrant, new mixed use neighborhood
- A neighborhood driven by innovation
- A place to live, work, play, shop, dine, learn and visit
Helping developers fulfill that promise are several massive infrastructure improvements over the past decade, including: access to a redeveloped highway system that includes the Big Dig; an upgraded Logan Airport; expanded water transit; and the construction of the Silver Line. Add to that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), the Federal Court House, the beginning of a local park system and Harborwalk, the ICA relocation, and the city’s energetic branding of the Innovation District, and it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to be there!
At the event, Mayor Menino indicated that the city did not want the development of this area to be rushed, avoiding a cold, uninviting commercial zone. He wanted, and now sees forming, a 24-hour, mixed use area that will attract both families and entrepreneurs.
Despite the large amount of available, buildable land adjacent to downtown (rare for most cities), the redevelopment of this enormous land mass has taken quite a while to get moving. Early in the last decade, Seaport Place developed 1 million sq. ft. of office space and a full service hotel. Another 600,000 sq. ft. came along with Manulife’s headquarters. The next few years were fairly quiet for commercial development, until Joe Fallon built the first office building on Fan Pier, a speculative 526,000 sq. ft. tower at One Marina Park Drive. Fallon had previously developed the 465 unit Park Lane apartments and partnered on the convention center’s Westin Waterfront hotel. Soon after, the 470 room Renaissance Hotel was built.
Seaport, the hottest neighborhood in Boston – Part Two
Today I finish up with a closer look at residential and retail activity, Liberty Wharf, and what to expect next as projects make the move from drawing board to construction site.
Interest in residential use dates back to artists’ lofts in Fort Point Channel, which eventually led to Beacon Partners’ development of Channel Center with over 200 new condominiums. Then came the award-winning FP3 residences and restaurants developed by Berkeley Investments.
It was Liberty Wharf, though, that brought a whole new group of visitors to the Seaport with its 70,000 sq. ft. office and retail development that includes Legal Harborside, Del Frisco’s, Temazcal Tequila Cantina, and Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grille. Two-hour waits and a vibrant neighborhood buzzing with excitement are the result. Ed Nardi, working with Massport and the Jimmy’s Restaurant family was able to produce a concept that not only satisfied stakeholders, but far surpassed their expectations. Hot off this success, Cresset recently committed to purchasing another property in the area for redevelopment.
In an excellent overview of the neighborhood’s history and future promise, architect David Manfredi gave the NAIOP audience a summary of the last 10 years of development in the area:
- Work: 2.3 million square feet of new office space
- Live: 750+ new residences
- Play: +4.7 acres of new public park and the extended Harborwalk
- Visit: 1,639 guest rooms
- Learn: ICA & BCEC
- Dine: 40 restaurants, cafes, food venues
- Shop: Louis
What’s coming next?
- 1,160,000 square feet of innovation space
- 1,500+ residences
- BCEC expansion
- More restaurants, cafes, food venues
- 360,000+ square feet retail
New apartments are arriving with John Drew and HYM Development at Waterside Place, Steve Karp with Hanover Company at Pier 4, and John Hynes at Seaport Square. Innovation centers for start-up companies will be built by Drew and Hynes. And retail is finally on the drawing board for Waterside Place and a major joint venture with W/S Development at Seaport Square. Who will get the first supermarket? Both companies report they are currently in talks with grocery chains.
The hotel question still lingers. With the Waterfront Renaissance Hotel in foreclosure, it is clear the market is not ready for a new hotel right now. Some feel the elephant in the room is the BCEC expansion and that new hotel(s) will be dependent on the deal cut with the convention center.
As for the office market, as Charles Reid from Boston Global Investors indicated, there are a lot of parking lots right now and it will take some time before the Financial District feels the pinch as the Seaport lots get transformed into new development. Other than build-to-suits (e.g. Vertex), spec development is highly unlikely in the near future. However, there are some large blocks of space coming up for renewal in downtown – it’s possible one of those businesses could decide to relocate to a new state-of-the-art building in the Innovation District.
The bottom line is that the Innovation District has come a long way from the days when Anthony’s, Jimmy’s, and the No Name were the only major draws to cross the Fort Point Channel. And while it may be a long way from its final build-out, there is no doubt this hot new neighborhood is here to stay.