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South Boston Techies Will Rescue East Boston Real Estate

Lawrence Harmon spelled out in The Globe over the weekend why Mayor Menino's redevelopment plan for East Boston ain't so far-fetched. Recall that a large portion of the mayor's plan hinges on improved ferry service between East Boston and nearby waterfront neighborhoods. This includes South Boston. We posited last week that South Boston's live/work, tech-heavy Innovation District could—and maybe already is—the model for Menino's East Boston plan.

Even if the neighborhood doesn't end up hosting some sort of Innovation District 2.0, Harmon points out that better ferries could certainly bring the district's vibe (and consumers) to East Boston. Such an influx would be a game-changer for the neighborhood and its real estate much in the same way it's been for Southie (a Goldman Sachs-backed tower, anyone?).

The new ferry would be a time saver by running between East Boston and the less accessible Fan Pier on the South Boston waterfront, home to the city’s burgeoning “innovation district.’’ That could be a big boost for young workers who are finding employment and entertainment opportunities on the South Boston waterfront but can’t afford to live there. Housing in East Boston, meanwhile, is comparatively inexpensive. Commuting to work by boat would also hold aesthetic appeal to the so-called “creative class’’ of young researchers and techies working in science-based start-ups in the innovation district. Not so for East Boston immigrants commuting to jobs in downtown hotels back in the 1990s.

Of course, Menino's plan needs some work (and money). And ferry plans like his have sunk before.

One of the key long-term decisions will be whether the city contracts out the service or purchases a boat of its own to lease to a licensed boat operator. Right now, Menino is operating on faith — faith that the Massachusetts Port Authority will accede to his request to subsidize the inner harbor ferry service by assessing a $1 to $2 surcharge on cruise ship passengers at the Black Falcon terminal. Massport officials, however, don’t appear especially enthusiastic about the idea. ...

There has been a lot of gum-flapping over the years, as well, on creating a water loop between the cultural institutions in Charlestown, South Boston, and Dorchester, which would allow tourists and residents to hop on and off for visits to the USS Constitution, Children’s Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art, and JFK Library. But other than a short pilot program a few years ago, it never took off.

· Full Throttle [Globe]
· Menino's East Boston Development Plan: the Details [Curbed Boston]
· Is East Boston the New Innovation District? [Curbed Boston]
· 319 A Street: the South Boston Waterfront's Big Greenlight [Curbed Boston]
· East Boston Housing: the 'It' Neighborhood by the Numbers [Curbed Boston]

[Illustration by Wesley Bedrosian for The Boston Globe]