With a new name, the Charles River Mill District hopes to attract a fresh set of startups

Chapel Bridge Park in Newton is one of several buildings hosting startups in the newly-named Charles River Mill District.
Chapel Bridge Park in Newton is one of several buildings hosting startups in the newly-named Charles River Mill District.

If you name it, they will come.

In a move familiar to anyone who has watched real estate agents make neighborhoods out of thin air, a group of state and municipal leaders and local business owners announced the creation of the new Charles River Mill District on Wednesday — designating a swath of land at the intersection of Waltham, Newton, and Watertown as yet another hub for innovation in the region.

But the branding of the district, which ribbons along the Charles River just north of Newton Center and west of Watertown Square, is not merely an attempt to attract companies to the area, said Michael Grill, the president of Fairlane Properties, who owns several renovated buildings in the region. It is a recognition of the dozens of tech startups that have already set up shop, he said.

“City boundaries don’t do justice to the area,” Grill said. “We have this hub of innovation, and no one knows about it.”

With about 2.6 million square feet, the district is home to eight mill buildings and is one the few sections of Newton still zoned for manufacturing, Grill said.

The updated industrial spaces host several hardware companies, including Barrett Technology Inc., which is building robotic arms, and Heuresis Corp., which makes hand-held X-ray machines to detect lead paint.

Sasaki Associates' offices in WatertownSasaki Associates’ offices in Watertown. Photo: Charles River Mill District

Meanwhile, firms like Sasaki Associates that were behind the design of the Lawn on D in South Boston are also­ thriving, and Charles River Coworking and the International Entrepreneurship Center are hosting new companies.

The designation of the mill district was a response, in part, to the 2013 naming of the N2 Corridor, a push by the Newton Needham Chamber of Commerce to better identify the innovation cluster along Interstate 95, said Greg Reibman, chamber president.

Having a collective identity will allow businesses to “talk about what they need to be successful and find a sense of community,” he said. On the agenda are better bus routes and bike lanes, a push for more lunch and coffee shops, and more social opportunities for companies in the district.

“It was obvious to me that the chamber and the City of Newton weren’t really aware of all that was going on to our part of the world,” said Grill, who is eager to begin hosting meetups for startups. “If the companies in our district knew who their neighbors are, what can happen?”

A celebratory kickoff for the district will be held at the Chapel Bridge Park on the evening of May 28.

Janelle Nanos can be reached at janelle.nanos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos.
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