You have to squint really hard to ignore all of the great financial services, fishing, and brewing activity that takes place in the district. It's also home to Au Bon Pain's headquarters, a working dry dock, the Boston Convention and Expo Center, and a couple of vast parking lots.
It's not yet easy or enjoyable enough to walk between the four neighborhoods, and because they're so spread out I suspect there isn't much interchange between people who work in, say, Fort Point and the Marine Industrial Park. The MBTA's Silver Line connects two of the neighborhoods — Fan Pier, where the MassChallenge building is located, and the Marine Industrial Park — but the other two are a decent walk from Silver or Red Line stops. Hopefully, as the district grows up, there will be more connectivity between these four pockets of activity.
My four-subzones are:
- Fort Point Channel. The oldest and most neighborhood-y of the four zones. Still home to working artists, as well as hang-outs like Lucky's, Flour Bakery, and Papagayo. This area has the highest density of innovation-related tenants, including electronics recycler Gazelle, Greentown Labs, Skyhook, and, later this year, the digital agency Allen & Gerritsen. The district's lone venture capital firm, OpenView Venture Partners, throws great parties on their roofdeck during the warm months.
- Channel Center. To distinguish this new development along A Street from Fort Point Channel, I prefer to call it "Flash Sale Alley," since it's where the luxe online retailer Rue La La is based. A 60-person R&D lab, the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems, is moving in later in 2012. (The Rodney Brooks start-up Heartland Robotics is not quite in Channel Center, and not quite in Fort Point Channel. I'm hoping they can attract at least one more robotics company to Wormwood Street so we can call it Robotics Row.)
- Fan Pier. The first office tower at Fan Pier, One Marina Park Drive, houses more than 100 small start-ups; the building's owner donates a full floor to the MassChallenge competition. (As it fills up with paying tenants, MassChallenge could be squeezed out.) But Vertex Pharmaceuticals is building its new headquarters next door. It's the first major drug company to move from Cambridge to Boston, and about 1,500 people will work in the pair of 18-story buildings. Maybe we'll soon call it "Pharma Pier"...
- Marine Industrial Park. Filling up with companies that design new organisms, mosaic-making robots, and energy storage systems. Everyone bumps into one another at the Au Bon Pain on the first floor. The complex has less to do with the marine world than it once did, but the cinder-block-walls still make the place feel pretty industrial.
The annotated map is below. Would love to hear your thoughts...
View Boston's Innovation District: The Sub-Zones in a larger map
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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More from Scott
March 3: Web Innovators Group
Demos, drinks, and schmoozing at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.
March 7-8: MassDigi Game Challenge
Competition for aspiring game developers... plus panels and keynotes related to the business of play.
April 3-4: Mass Biotech Annual Meeting
Issues facing the region's life sciences community.