‘Pioneer’ Seaport developer John Drew launches Waterside Place
Hub developer John Drew broke ground on Waterside Place today, marking a new beginning for the man known as the pioneer builder on the South Boston waterfront.
A crowd including Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino gathered under a white tent at the corner of Congress and D streets today to celebrate the kickoff of the $120 million luxury apartment building.
“People say the mayor had this idea about the Innovation District. Well, the real pioneer is John Drew,” Menino said, noting the Drew Co.’s work on the World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel and office complex dating to the mid-1980s.
“He was the beginning of that whole renaissance,” Menino added. “John had that vision of what could happen down here and today part of that vision is being realized with the construction of these housing units on the South Boston waterfront.”
The 20-story Waterside Place will rise on a three-acre, Massport-owned parking lot behind the Seaport complex. The 236 units will start leasing in late 2013.
The long-stalled and scaled-down project is the latest of the four major South Boston waterfront developers — including Joe Fallon at Fan Pier, Steve Karp at Pier 4 and John Hynes at Seaport Square — to launch in the wake of the Great Recession.
“There’s plenty of competition between developers, but I must say here it’s friendly and it helps you sustain yourself as you work on these projects,” he said.
“It’s so amazing to see how the landscape has changed over the course of those years and to look at the progress that has been made all around us, that we were a part of. We’ve been joined by so many great projects.”
Drew, who stood by a banner displaying Waterside Place’s wave-like “W” logo, has held back on plans for a supermarket between the apartment building and MBTA Silver Line station.
He also has put off plans for a major retail complex along Summer Street facing the convention center.
“I hope that as we grow our project through another phase and hopefully another property, soon we’ll be adding on to what the mayor sees as a vibrant neighborhood, an exciting place to be,” Drew said.
Menino noted that, with Waterside Place now in the mix, the Southie waterfront is “fast becoming a place to live” with about 1,000 housing units under construction by the end of the year.
After so many years without financing, Drew gave a nod to his investment partner JP Morgan, as well as Citizens Bank, which provided the construction loan for the 350,000-square-foot Waterside Place.
State Sen. Jack Hart (D-South Boston) called Drew a “kind of Davy Crockett character” on a “wild frontier.”
“He’s been here since 1985, he has been a pioneer of this waterfront when it was nothing more than a barren wasteland,” Hart said.
Suffolk Construction will hire about 800 workers to build Waterside Place, which was designed by Boston-based architectural firm TRO Jung Brannen.
Drew was advised on the housing by HYM Investment Group’s Tom O’Brien and Doug Manz.
The Massachusetts Port Authority will generate at least $300,000 a year in rent from Waterside Place, after collecting several hundred thousand dollars in ground-lease fees during the two-year construction phase, according to Massport CEO David Mackey.
The building — which won city approval in 2007 — will have 140 parking spaces, retail space most likely for a pharmacy such as CVS or Walgreens, and a 7,000-square-foot “fully built-out” work space for budding entrepreneurs and startups.
“We’re not just putting up another building today,” Menino said. “We’re creating new homes for residents, new jobs for our workers and new space for our entrepreneurs.”