Innovation District is bringing new energy to Boston
Article Courtesy of: Boston Homes
Boston is the sixth most economically powerful city in the world, Mayor Thomas M. Menino told business leaders last month at a forum about the waterfront, sponsored by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.
It is ahead of Beijing, Hong Kong and Sao Paolo.
That’s pretty significant, considering Boston’s size. Tokyo ranked number one, followed by New York City. Chicago fell in at number four.
Menino was referencing an article last month in the Atlantic, which named the top 25 most economically powerful cities in the world, based on three criteria – “gross regional product, the region’s banking and financial institutions and its innovation index,” or number of patents generated.
Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, which created the index, and a senior editor at the Atlantic, wrote the article.
(In an earlier analysis of gross metropolitan product among cities versus countries, the Boston-Cambridge-New Hampshire economy was identified as bigger than Denmark’s, which in 2010 was $310 billion.)
All attention at the forum, though, was directed toward the Innovation District, the burgeoning South Boston/Seaport waterfront that encompasses 1,000 acres, and developers detailed their projects.
“Our innovation plan is pretty simple: Plan for great jobs,” Menino said. To date, 70 companies have moved into the area, bringing 2,000 jobs, and another 2,000 jobs are on the way, he said.
The top business school, Babson College, has opened a satellite on Summer Street to bring future entrepreneurs to the area, and a German research institute plans to launch a $20 million company in the district, he said.
The new 31-story Atlantic Wharf building includes retail and office space and 66 loft apartments. It fronts both the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Fort Point Channel, where the HarborWalk wends its away along water’s edge.
By far, though, the biggest development is the Vertex Pharmaceutical complex now under construction at Fan Pier, between the Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse and the Institute of Contemporary Art.
The $900 million development is the largest privately funded construction project in the country and will provide 1.1 million square feet for research laboratories and offices.
The two 18-story towers will be striking. Tsoi/Kobus Associates has designed a building at 50 Northern Ave. with a pale blue glass exterior while Elkus Manfredi Architects has designed an equally stunning building with floor-to–ceiling light green glass at 11 Fan Pier Boulevard.
Elkus Manfredi also designed Fallon’s first office building at One Marina Park Drive for the Fallon Company. Adjacent is the Fan Pier Park, which connects to other green spaces and is a significant component of HarborWalk.
What is unique about this area is the integration of places for working, living, playing and visiting in this new vibrant neighborhood and the emphasis on collaboration among the start-up businesses settling here.
“This is a special place in the city,” Menino continued. “We thought differently about this part of the city…This is what is happening [now] on the waterfront, [and] this needs to be the rule, not the exception.”
With the construction of new offices along the water’s edge, the demand for housing has returned, but the residences may not be condominiums.
Stephen Karp, chairman of New England Development, told the NAIOP audience that he plans to begin construction next spring of 350 apartments.
The 21-story building is the first phase of that company’s development plan, which includes offices, hotels and retail space. His second building may be condos and a hotel; he already is in discussions with a couple of hotels.
Plans for the Drew Company call for building 234 apartments at Waterside Place, next to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, early next year. It is located between Congress and Summer streets.
This project was first proposed nearly a decade ago and is slowly being developed now. John Drew, president of the company, recalled the economic challenges when he was building the Seaport Hotel in the late 1990s and the two World Trade Center buildings, East and West, which were completed by 2002.
The proximity to Downtown and the Financial District, the means of access by water, rail, car and public transportation and the infrastructure in place have presented a phenomenal opportunity where so much land is available, he noted.
“We’re still challenged by the economy and what’s going on in the financial markets,” he added.
The latest and largest addition to the Innovation District is Seaport Square which, when completed, will bring $3 billion of development to the area.
Residences, retail space, offices, a hotel and an innovation center will connect these waterfront neighborhoods, said Charles Reid, executive vice president of Boston Global Investors.
Seaport Square is a joint development by BGI, Morgan Stanley and WS Development. Reid told the audience that they plan to break ground soon for a 12,000-square-foot innovation center designed by Hacin Associates.
Construction of 750 AvalonBay apartments is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2012, he said.
“Within the next three years, this will be a totally different place,” Reid said. “It is a city within a city to live, work and play.”
Liberty Wharf, comprising three buildings on a rebuilt pier that was once the site of Jimmy’s Harborside, was completed earlier this year.
It has been an overwhelming success, drawing flocks of people to its restaurants; some nights have as long as a two-hour wait.
Developer Ed Nardi, president of the Cresset Group said he was surprised at the number of jobs that Liberty Wharf has created, perhaps 750 to 800 seasonably adjusted jobs.
The public outdoor space that is part of all these developments can be attributed to the Boston Harbor Association, which works with the city, developers and waterfront businesses and harbor users to find a balance among competing interests.
The result is the HarborWalk that extends along 84 percent or 39 miles of the Boston shoreline, Vivien Li, TBHA president, told realtors at a gathering sponsored by the Listing Information Network.
Wharf Hotel and Residences, where a water taxi stops to transport people to the airport, the Charlestown Navy Yard or to Fan Pier.
Many of the improvements have occurred during the past two years, not only in the Innovation District but also in the other waterfront neighborhoods – East Boston, Charlestown, the North End, Downtown and Dorchester, she said.
She showed images of the parks and walkways and of people enjoying the area. “People are drawn to the water,” she said.