Companies Set Sights On Seaport Area
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
While it may still be a stretch to say that the South Boston waterfront is becoming the Silicon Valley of the East Coast, the area is beginning to attract the attention of technology-oriented companies. The trend of technology firms staking claim on the West Coast—or locally, in the suburbs of Massachusetts—seems to be changing in favor of urban real estate in the newly established Innovation District of Boston.
In 2010, Mayor Thomas M. Menino saw such potential in the expanse of urban landscape that includes the Seaport District, Fort Point, Boston Marine Industrial Park, and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, that he deemed area the “Innovation District,” hoping to attract businesses that will jumpstart the industrial South Boston waterfront. Menino desires to grab the attention of startups and entrepreneurs, with a focus on technology and medical firms, in addition to building up new places of residence, restaurants, and shops.
Containing the largest tract of underdeveloped land in Boston, the the Innovation District is teeming with opportunity for the growth and development of new ideas, products, and (as the moniker suggests) innovation in general. Though technically the Innovation District lacks clear geographic boundaries, the common real estate mantra “location, location, location” still rings true since Boston Harbor, Logan International Airport, and two major interstate highways surround the area, providing several gateways in and out of the city.
So far, Menino’s approach to bringing business to the district has been through non-financial promotion tactics rather than with subsidies and incentives. The Boston Redevelopment Authority continues to spread the word to real estate developers and entrepreneurs about the blossoming community of innovation on the waterfront. Without a designated staff to market the district, spreading the word is key. In fact, most city dwellers are not yet familiar with the plans in store for this new community.
Several companies have already settled in the area, while others are in development, such as Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. and State Street Corp. According to commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, rents in the Seaport District have increased 14 percent since 2011. Real estate investors National Development and Angelo Gordon & Co., for example, are looking to cash in by selling 407,000 square feet of office space in buildings on Farnsworth, Congress, and Summer Streets. Prospective tenants there will neighbor Bullhorn, a software company, and Isaacson Miller, an executive search firm, among other companies.
Residential development in the area is on the rise as well, as plans for the construction of more than 1,000 new apartments are in effect. When space for residences expands at the same time new restaurants and retail establishments are popping up, as is the case in the Innovation District, companies are further compelled to move to the area because these dynamics would facilitate the daily lives of their workers.
It has recently been released that Zipcar plans to move its headquarters from Cambridge to the Innovation District by 2013. The car-sharing company rents cars by the hour and is popular with businesses and universities.
Zipcar has signed a letter of intent to lease space in the district, though details concerning the exact location of the new headquarters or when the move will be finalized have yet to be released. The company’s CEO, Scott Griffith, explained the relocation in a statement: “[The Innovation District] will provide Zipcar with exactly the atmosphere we are looking for to attract and retain a great pool of talent as we move closer to achieving our vision of more car sharers than car owners in major cities around the globe.” Griffith’s excitement for the upcoming move undoubtedly derives from his time spent assisting Mayor Menino and his staff creating the vision of the Innovation District.
Zipcar currently employs 200 people at the Cambridge offices, and hopes that further growth will result from the move.