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East Boston Just Fine w/ Being the New South Boston

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Looks like our hunch last month that East Boston was destined to be the new South Boston was spot on (yay, us). Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox hit the streets of Eastie last week, and the analogies to Southie started flying.

Many residents pointed to the revitalization of the South Boston Seaport, which [Mayor] Menino designated the city’s Innovation District in January 2010. The seaport was already on an upswing, thanks to such attractions as the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the Institute of Contemporary Art. But the city’s efforts to attract technology companies brought in 90 new firms employing 2,800 workers, according to the BRA. The district now boasts high-end stores and restaurants such as Legal Harborside, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals is building an $800 million headquarters there.

Many believe Menino can bring a similar vitality to East Boston.

Indeed, Hizzoner is apparently the long-awaited messiah for East Boston's economic development, "the kind of mayor who can actually get these various developers together along with Massport and individual property owners to move forward on it," according to Clark Moulaison of East Boston Main Streets. In a much ballyhooed speech to the Chamber of Commerce last month, Menino proposed a sweeping focus on East Boston's redevelopment, including:

· a new municipal harbor plan;
· a floating pier, under the plan, at the end of Lewis Street;
· apartment buildings with retail on the ground floors;
· an East Boston Waterfront Development District to facilitate infrastructure improvements;
· $1 million annually to create a beefier inter-neighborhood ferry network;
· "retail and cultural entry point" into Boston for the 300K cruise ship passengers who pass through the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal every year (this is where Massport comes in);
· and a casino at Suffolk Downs (which he did not mention in the speech, but that could be in the works nonetheless).

Still, some Eastie residents worry that too much of modern Southie may be a bad thing. All those techies in ferries, with their notions about affordability and the proper serving temperatures for Sancerre ...

"I don’t think we’re going to be like South Boston, which I think has sort of gone up in a flame of gentrification," said Philip Giffee, 64, executive director of the nonprofit Neighborhood of Affordable Housing. "You’re already seeing some price increases in the Jeffries Point section [of East Boston] . . . but they’re not extreme." Stay tuned. Eastie's been waiting for its savior a long time.

· Menino Called Key to East Boston Hopes [Globe]
· Is East Boston the New Innovation District? [Curbed Boston]
· Menino's East Boston Development Plan: the Details [Curbed Boston]
· Downtown Crossing's Filene's Site, East Boston Casino: Tied? [Curbed Boston]
· South Boston Techies Will Rescue East Boston Real Estate [Curbed Boston]