Just a few years ago, the South Boston Waterfront didn’t have much to it. Fast forward to 2012 and the area is exploding with activity in what’s now known as Boston’s Innovation District – one of Boston’s hottest neighborhoods.
It’s never been a better time for the development, as there’s a new generation of workers, and Boston wants to keep them. They walk and ride bikes to work, and they can do it all without leaving the city. Much of the development started after a 2010 mandate from Boston Mayor Tom Menino to develop 1000 acres of waterfront property as a platform of entrepreneurship focused on 3 initiatives – jobs, housing, and infrastructure.
The district was created to attract innovative people and companies and fuel economic engines for Boston. It’s a way to win the war to obtain and retain talent. The Innovation District has created 3000 new jobs and 100 companies.
MassChallenge moved to the area in 2010 and has brought a lot of excitement and innovation to the area with its mission to “Catalyze a startup renaissance.” MassChallenge is the largest start-up accelerator and competition in the world and offers 125 finalist start-up companies access to world-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding and media, and other perks, such as free business flights provided by American Airlines. The winners of the challenge receive $1M in cash awards and over $4 Million worth of in-kind support collectively.
MassChallenge occupies 27,000 square feet of Class A office space at One Marina Park Drive, an 18-story mixed use building with cutting edge architecture and incredible ocean views. MassChallenge’s Director of Partnerships, Scott Bailey, said the developer of One Marina Park Drive, Joe Fallon, has been “a massive supporter of MassChallenge and provides all the office space at no charge.”
Advertising Agency, Allen & Gerritsen, is moving to the Innovation District in September of 2012. After the move, the company is planning on adding up to 50 new jobs. According to Allen & Gerritsen’s CEO, Andrew Graff, the company grew out of its current space, and there was real appeal to moving to the waterfront area. Graff said “it’s where the action is,” and they wanted to move into an area of like-minded companies. Graff said “Creativity, technology and curiosity are what Allen & Gerritsen is all about, and that aligns with what the Innovation District is all about.”
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce views the Innovation District as having enormous potential and actively supported Mayor Menino’s efforts to develop the area. Charles Rudnick, Vice President of Communications for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, stated “years ago the area was in stagnation and now it’s an energetic area with a thriving nightlife.” Rudnick described the Innovation District as a cluster of innovative, forward-looking companies, driven by innovation.
Legendary Restaurant Group/Papagayo co-owner, Chris Damian, saw major opportunity in the Innovation District before opening his Mexican restaurant in the space formerly occupied by restaurant Persephone. Damian feels Persephone was a “super talented neat concept,” but it was ahead of its time, and the area didn’t have the infrastructure around it to support it at the time. Damian has lived in the Seaport area for years and watched the area explode with development. Now Damian describes the area as a “destination location,” and feels the amount of professionals moving into the area will create even more opportunity for businesses.
The area really is exploding with activity and has numerous dining and entertainment options, such as Nick Varano’s Strega on the Waterfront, Chef Jody Adam’s Trade, Legal Harborside, and sports bar Remy’s on the Waterfront and many more. They join cultural attractions such as The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) and the Tea Party Ships and Museum, which plans to open in June of 2012.
Boston is truly a world class city, and the Innovation District certainly is a place that showcases that.
Ellen Keiley is a Boston World Partnerships Connector and a member of the Business Development Department at K&L Gates in Boston. She can be contacted at ellen.keiley [AT] klgates.com
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