Seaport on the Rise - Part I
The Seaport District, Boston’s first new neighborhood in 150 years, sparked optimism from the panel (and 532 guests) at Bisnow’s State of the Seaport event yesterday. It only took 20 years of city planning, a $20B federal infrastructure investment, and developers who are believers.
At the Renaissance Marriott: Vidaris' Walter Hartnett moderated, WS Development’s Brian Sciera, Gerding Edlen’s Matt Edlen, ADD Inc’s James Gray, Boston Global Investor’s John Hynes III, Berkshire Group’s Steve Woods, The Fallon Co’s Richard Martini, Jacobs’ Jonathan Ginnis and Jamestown’s Michael Phillips. With billions being invested and 3M SF under construction, all that’s missing is a school and supermarket, they say. (Combine the two and cafeteria food fights get a lot more interesting.)
The City has done great planning but now needs to streamline its “exhaustive” design review and “get out of the way,” says John, who’s in a JV with Morgan Stanley in the 6.3M SF, $3.5B Seaport Square. He promises a new supermarket for the Seaport and is asking the City to allow construction of a new school. A Class-A spec office tower is likely to get into construction by year-end; perhaps by Skanska, now building a build to suit for PricewaterhouseCoopers there. There are few other areas in the city offering the new type of offices companies now demand (column-free, high ceilings, big windows, exposed mechanicals and a variety of work spaces). Such space gives them an edge in the war for talent.
Richard, who is Fallon Co’s design, development and construction maven, is managing the design and construction of Fan Pier’s 22 Liberty, 111 luxury condos, and 100 Northern Ave, a 515k SF office where Goodwin Proctor will relo its HQ into 380k SF. He ran the Vertex project, 1.1M SF of offices and labs with an perimeter circulation/collaboration space that makes the views accessible to the entire staff. His team’s taking preventive measures for sea surge but can’t design to the climate change that will alter the landscape in 80 years, he says. (So no kayak parking.)
Brian's firm is developing 1.3M SF of Seaport retail and restaurants. The infrastructure is in, the investors are eager; now, it’s “just a matter of getting the buildings up.” As a developer, it’s critical to create an active streetscape, let tenants express their brands, open cafés that spill onto the sidewalk; not have monochromatic structures that dominate the street. Success at the Seaport is about people feeling the energy. Another element that makes this location unique in the nation—it’s a five-minute drive to the airport.
As the first opportunity to build a new Boston neighborhood since the rise of Back Bay, Seaport development is a long-term play, Steve says. It’s about creating a community and a multi-generational lifestyle. He cautions that there will be short-term pain: more traffic, some infrastructure requirements and lease-up. In the 832-unit One Seaport Square, there will “absolutely” be micro units complemented by more common areas to motivate residents to congregate. Active, interesting streets, parks, and cultural venues add to the lifestyle.
As an architect, being able to design a new neighborhood from scratch is “unbelievable,” says Jonathan (also an event sponsor). It’s a chance to pay homage to the area’s rich heritage and introduce innovative building materials and interiors. Traditional companies like State Street, which has been in the Financial District for a century, and PwC are coming to the Seaport. For the potential of flood damage, in the short term Jacobs is addressing it with temporary barriers, protection for basements, raising equipment. But long term, climate change and sea surge need to be addressed as long-term infrastructure issues along the entire coast.
ADD Inc's study of how new multifamily buildings are leasing—315 on A Street, Waterside Place, The Victor, The Kensington—reveal changing demographics. James says not just Millennials and empty nesters but families with children and perhaps clusters of entrepreneurs want to live downtown and at the waterfront. As the multifamily market matures, the Seaport needs more service-oriented retail, a school and buildings with more options for innovators and families. (That's the third mention of schools—we're tempted to open one of our own, though our knowledge is limited to Game of Thrones trivia.) As new construction delivers, infill for varied uses will grow up around it. When Berkshire’s One Seaport opens, with WS Development’s 260k SF of retail, then the Seaport will hit the tipping point.