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Checking in on construction progress at the Boston Innovation Center

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 11, 2013 10:31 AM

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During last week's snowstorm, I had a chance to stop by the Boston Innovation Center for a quick tour with architect David Hacin. The building, on Northern Avenue across from the Institute of Contemporary Art and Vertex's future headquarters, is intended to serve as the clubhouse for Boston's Innovation District. It'll host parties, conferences, workshops, and possibly some pop-up retail experiments; the BIC will also be home to a restaurant with a nice outdoor patio, though it hasn't yet been decided who will operate it. (I wrote about the $5.5 million project in 2011, and again last November.)

Hacin, right, says that the BIC will probably begin opening in stages this summer, with the complete facility online by sometime around Labor Day. It'll have a new name; Boston Innovation Center is a placeholder, and the City of Boston has been trying to crowdsource the permanent one. Managing the space will be the Venture Café foundation, a non-profit created by Tim Rowe of the Cambridge Innovation Center, which now operates a once-a-week networking event (with free beer, I should note) in Kendall Square.

The building's design was inspired by its location; Hacin explains that "this area used to be railyards and docks. Some of the docks are still in use, of course. But things were transferred from boat to train, or train to boat, here." The pointy left side of the structure echoes the prow of a ship, and the rectangular right side the geometry of a boxcar. Hacin says that the BIC will be "a writeable building — you'll be able to write on basically anything inside it" and that the space will be "raw and flexible on the inside," to support a broad spectrum of possible uses. (Among the groups that have expressed interest in holding events there are Mobile Mondays, Wonder Women of Boston, Design Museum Boston, and the Boston LGBT Film Festival.) The building's interior is about 12,000 square feet.

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Here's the inside of that ship's prow, looking out toward the Institute of Contemporary Art. This is where the restaurant's indoor seating will be, connecting to a slightly-elevated outdoor patio that will have nice views of the park across the street and the water, too. The restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also provide catering services for events that take place at the BIC.

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This will be the BIC's central hallway. (The picture looks toward the main entryway on Northern Avenue.) On the left side of the photo are smaller conference rooms, and on the right is the building's large meeting room. The smaller conference rooms will all face a not-yet-built street that will connect Seaport Boulevard and Northern Avenue. They can have doors to the outside, which would enable them to host pop-up shops, exhibitions, or demos that would be easily accessible to pedestrians.

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Here's that big meeting room, which looks like it could seat 100 or 125 people easily. There are high ceilings and a pair of big doors to the outside, which would make it easy to load in equipment.

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This tower is on the side of the BIC that faces Seaport Boulevard, and it'll eventually hold large digital signs, sort of like those outside the Boston Convention and Exposition Center a few blocks away.

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Tim Rowe tells me that he's hunting for a furniture sponsor for the BIC, which has a very tight budget beyond the building's construction cost.

I'm eager to see how the BIC looks when it's finished... to find out who will run the restaurant... and to learn what the final name of the place will be.

Post a comment or drop me an e-mail if you have thoughts...

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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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