Start of Vertex project adds muscle to lofty ‘Innovation District’ name
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s plan to turn South Boston’s waterfront into an “Innovation District” will get its largest boost to date tomorrow when biotech giant Vertex Pharmaceuticals breaks ground on new headquarters there.
“What this shows is the possibilities for the Innovation District,” Menino told the Herald yesterday. “This is just the beginning for the Innovation District.”
Menino and other dignitaries will be on hand tomorrow when developer Joe Fallon breaks ground on two office buildings for the biotech firm, which is moving to South Boston from Cambridge. The mayor wooed Vertex to South Boston partly by putting together a $72 million package of government incentives for the company.
The move will bring some 1,800 jobs to the area — and kick-start Menino’s dream of developing a district of tech companies, cool restaurants and hip housing to attract young “knowledge” workers.
The mayor unveiled his idea for the Innovation District — partly modeled on a Barcelona, Spain, development — during his 2010 inauguration speech.
“I’ve always wanted our waterfront to be a special place — a 24-hour neighborhood with diverse uses for everyone,” Menino said yesterday. “It’s really a place that will be open to the finest innovators.”
However, the plan only got limited traction at first, with some small start-ups renting space in the area.
But market watchers say Vertex’s decision to move in has really boosted interest in the neighborhood.
Vivian Li of the Boston Harbor Association, which lobbies for improving the waterfront, said real estate agents who cater to start-ups have recently begun asking for tours.
“Frankly, I doubted the mayor’s idea at first, of all of these small companies coming together,” Li said. “But now I see it happening.”
Commercial real estate broker Barry Hynes, who helped law firm Fish & Richardson relocate to the area from downtown, said Vertex’s move “is extremely positive” for the district. “You’re going to get a critical mass of people there who are going to need more services and more amenities,” he said.
Tomorrow’s ground breaking also represents a big milestone in the three-decade effort to redevelop South Boston’s Fan Pier.
Late Anthony’s Pier 4 owner Anthony Athanas first tried to develop the area in the 1980s but had a falling out with his business partners, Chicago’s wealthy Pritzker family.
The Pritzkers eventually took over the property, but the early 1990s recession and real estate bust put development on hold. Fallon bought the site in 2005, but had to weather the housing bust and the Great Recession since then.
“We’ve been building the site in phases,” Fallon told the Herald. “But now, we’re looking to be a little more aggressive thanks to Vertex.”