clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is East Boston the New Innovation District?

Mayor Menino this morning is expected to announce a plan to remake the East Boston waterfront in the Innovation District's image. Recall that the Innovation District is a two-year-old whole-cloth creation of the Menino administration in South Boston, designed to turn an aged-out industrial district into hip area for tech entrepreneurs and others who latte. It's working: Just last month, the Boston Redevelopment Authority O.K.'d Goldman Sachs' redevelopment of the warehouse space at 319 A Street, which will create the Fort Point Channel's tallest tower with 20 stories containing 202 housing and work units (and housing/work units).

Despite opposition from area residents who say such development is out of character and moving too fast, the Innovation District appears to be here to stay, transforming a section of Southie in ways unimaginable just five or six years ago.

In East Boston, there does not seem to be that much opposition to Menino's plans (today's announcement is "an early Christmas gift," according to one resident). What are those plans? On the surface, they appear to be the sorts of boilerplate waterfront development ideas that have rejuvenated urban coastlines across the country (including in Boston): privately developed apartment buildings with retail components buoyed by public infrastructure improvements and tax breaks. More from The Globe's Andrew Ryan:

In East Boston, Menino has targeted a large swath of the waterfront where several long-planned projects have stalled. If completed, those plans would represent $582 million in private development that would create more than 1,800 housing units. The administration’s proposal would allow the city to make upfront investments in roads and other infrastructure to lessen the cost of private construction as a way of encouraging development. The city would finance the work, in anticipation of an increase in property tax revenue when the residential buildings and commercial storefronts have been completed.

The mayor's announcement on East Boston is being wrapped in another one regarding $1 million more annually to improve neighborhood-to-neighborhood ferry service. It also comes amid a push by him and others to plunk a casino at Suffolk Downs. (We wonder how the two things would eventually gel, Atlantic City and Silicon Valley: "What odds can you give me on that IPO?")

While Menino's plan will not, of course, remake East Boston's waterfront entirely in the Innovation District's image—that would rob the district's very thunder for being—it will surely change another Boston streetscape unalterably, bringing in fresh residents and retail, and moving the goalposts yet again on what's possible here development-wise. Watch out, Charlestown waterfront.

· Menino to Boost Water Transit [Globe]
· 319 A Street: the South Boston Waterfront's Big Greenlight [Curbed Boston]

Innovation District

1 Marina Park Drive, Boston, MA 02101