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.
Read more about the city’s hottest neighborhood in Part Two tomorrow – use the buttons at right to subscribe by email or RSS. Among the topics: residential and retail uses, Liberty Wharf, and what’s next for the Seaport/Innovation District.