The Seaport, err Innovation District is changing quicker than you think

Seaport/Innovation District

What’s going on in the Seaport/Innovation District these days? Blink, and you might miss it.

Today, Mayor Marty Walsh will be at Fan Pier as Joseph Fallon “officially” breaks ground on 100 Northern Avenue, or as it’s already being called, the Goodwin Procter building.

Talking recently with Graham Allison and Jon Frisch over at T3 Advisors (whose “Innovation Lab” and headquarters is on the second floor of One Marina Park Drive) gave a lot of insight into what the the massive project may look like soon.

Two takeaways: First, the entire project is moving a lot faster than anyone anticipated. Second, “Innovation District,” the civic branding bestowed upon the Seaport by Mayor Menino, will be a misnomer in a year or two, if it isn’t already.

Why isn’t the Innovation District an apt name for the neighborhood anymore? With the move of MassChallenge from One Marina Park Drive to Drydock Avenue, the only space that was startup friendly is gone. The prices for rent in the “Innovation District,” an area that was envisioned as a rival to Kendall Square in terms of technology and entrepreneurship, can only be afforded by corporate entities like Goodwin Procter and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

As Allison explained, “The people coming in here now are not like the people being pushed out of Kendall. It’s the more mature companies, the people two or three more steps down the road than it was two or three years ago.”

“It’s the area that the artists made cool,” said Frisch. “Subsequently, the tech companies brought a whole other type of business to the Innovation District, and it’s ironic, but now the startups are becoming priced out of the area.”

There is a lot to keep track of: With Vertex already a presence in the Seaport, One Marina Park Drive will be filling up with Battery Ventures, Polaris Partners, EnerNOC, and soon Gunderson Dettmer.  Construction of the Goodwin Procter building and the PWC building are already underway, and the area best well known as a sea of parking lots will be unrecognizable in a few  years.

After a few years of slow growth and stumbles, what was supposed to be taking shape over the next ten years is now finally accelerating. Allison even said that the Seaport Square project is now supposed to break ground potentially this year, while it had originally been slated for five years out.

Here are some of the major developments led by The Fallon Company and John Hynes III’s Boston Global Investors.


The EnvoyThe Envoy is a boutique hotel that is being built in location “A” in the image at the top.

At the far right of the rendering of the Envoy you’ll notice the familiar striped roof of The Barking Crab. The restaurant, one of the oldest business operations in the area of the new Seaport development, will remain in the same location.

Word is that the restaurant was offered a prime location in the new hotel, which would have allowed for a continuous greenway to connect Summer Street in Fort Point all the way around Fan Pier by the ICA.

The owners of The Barking Crab turned down the supposedly lucrative offer, deciding to keep the distinct character of its current location. By staying put, The Barking Crab also kept the Envoy off the prime real estate right along the Fort Point Channel.

The Envoy is expected to open next spring or summer.

Twenty Two Liberty

Twenty Two Liberty

The crown jewel of Joe Fallon’s Fan Pier project, Twenty Two Liberty will be a 14-story luxury condo building made almost entirely of glass. Twenty-Two Liberty could be one of the most sought after residential properties in the country. That is if Fallon ever opens up the space to the general public.

Sources say that the building is already one-third sold through friends and family at this point. Supposedly the prices of the yet-to-be-built condos are over $2,000 per square foot. That means that a 1,000 square foot space selling for in the $2 to $2.5 million range. As Allison said, “Those are Manhattan numbers.”

Ground broke for Twenty Two Liberty in the fall. The first tenants are expected to move in in the fall of 2015.

Completed Fan Pier

Fan Pier Project

With the breaking of ground for the Goodwin Procter building (construction actually started a month ago in the area behind the ICA that used to be a parking lot), all of the Fallon Company’s projects in Fan Pier are built or underway.

It seems like only yesterday that the area around the Moakley Courthouse was nothing more than a desert of parking lots. Now, cars are being cleared out and construction is starting almost everywhere in the area.

Allison said that a source in Hynes’s camp told him that, within five years “tops of cars” will no longer be the main view in the Seaport.

The entire massive space between Fan Pier and Fort Point/Boston Convention Center will be part of the next massive building spree in the area, Seaport Square, which might be the most audacious project yet.

Seaport Square

As Allison and Frisch explained, Seaport Square, a project being run by BGI (John Hynes III’s company) is going to make the area a residential/commercial/retail center similar to Seaport Square 2 Newbury Street and Boylston Street.

The outlier in the entire project will be District Hall. Look again at the map above. Everything that is marked with a letter is going to be high rise office space with some residential mixed in. The entire project plans to fill the bottom floors, from Fort Point Channel all the way to the end of Fan Pier, with retail.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Good Voyage, which is in one of the oldest building still intact, will be moving to the bottom floor of one of the Seaport Square office buildings.

Seaport Square

Additionally, there will be more green space added, and, looking at the buildings marked “L”, a campus-style cluster of buildings and open space that will have offices, retail, and housing. The idea is for one company to build its headquarters in this location, which will be elevated and accessible via a road coming off Summer Street, which will have a groundwork of interconnected offices and employee living space.

Northern Avenue will be straightened and the last piece to the entire Seaport Square project will be the addition of big box retail and possibly a supermarket, in the space marked “M”. That final stage of construction won’t begin until the amount of residential space filled in the area reaches a certain level.

While the project is impressive and moving at a much quicker pace than expected, the idea that the area is going to be Boston’s center of innovation and business may not be too accurate.

Both Frisch and Allison were more bullish on the project slated for the area around North Station to be the next growth area for companies that are part of the “innovation economy.”

Additionally, while the new construction is already looking eye-catching and the plans for future development look even slicker, the area will probably lack the charm and character of other Boston neighborhoods. As Allison said, comparing Seaport Square to Newbury Street, “it will probably be less cozy.”

However, the view will be spectacular.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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