What is supposed to be a hub spot humming with innovative synergy from the region's most innovative start-ups, the so-called Innovation District will never be home to many of them.
The Innovation District is in danger of pricing itself out of existing, as Paul McMorrow of the Globe points out. The fast growing district in the Seaport area is busily putting up office and residential towers with enormous rents to boot. So far, big heavy hitters such as Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., State Street Corp, Suffolk Construction are making the move to the area, but none are in the innovative industry that's being targeted.
The appeal of the Fort Point neighborhood used to be the old brick warehouses that offered a good deal on office space. In the last two years, the rent has increased at least 40%. The existing design and tech firms that made their home here before the neighborhood rebranded itself the Innovation District are now being priced out of the area.
Smaller innovative companies have found refuge in places such as Kendall Square, where Cambridge uses its educational institutions to finance start-ups' real estate. MIT was allowed to build its 1-million-square-foot expansion around Kendall Square because Cambridge mandated that the school provide 100,000 square feet of affordable innovation office space. Cambridge required MIT to subsidize innovators in a way that large developers would subsidize affordable housing with revenues from new market-rate housing.
As of now, Boston does not have a system of providing stable rents for innovators anywhere in the city. These innovative companies are seeking their own solutions in the most unlikely places in Boston, like Allston. Allston boasts young, creative residents with proximity to Kendall Square, and its own wealthy educational institution in Harvard University and its new Innovation Lab. McMorrow also points out that small innovation companies need to cluster around each other and they need cheap places to work from. Allston's economic and demographic environment could be Boston's answer as a true innovation incubator.