Nestled between the Harbor, Fort Point Channel and First Street, South Boston’s bustling Seaport District is the latest “it” address for rising upstarts, cutting-edge technology companies and pioneering biomedical firms. Once a haven for fishermen, dock workers and manufacturers, the historic waterfront neighborhood is rapidly becoming a leader in the state’s innovation economy.
Seaport is experiencing a commercial real estate revitalization thanks to its excess of undeveloped land and empty aging buildings. Growth potential along the nearly 1,000 waterfront acres is enormous. Global investors are attracted to the location’s relatively affordable parcels, dazzling skyline views of downtown Boston and proximity to prominent East Coast companies.
Seaport is strategically positioned near I-90 and I-93 as well as the Silver Line bus rapid transit (BRT) and MBTA “T” stop, providing easy access to Logan Airport and the surrounding suburbs. The high-tech Boston Convention and Exhibition Center has become an anchor in the neighborhood, drawing in record-breaking crowds that stay and play in the city’s dozens of hotels, restaurants, pubs and public spaces.
The Rise of Boston's Innovation District
In 2010, Seaport embarked on a new venture to revitalize its industrial economy. Renaming Seaport the “Innovative District,” city planners envisioned a tech hub that could be held up as an example of how to transform an outskirts suburb into the most sought-after place to do business. Seaport was uniquely positioned to capitalize on Boston’s thriving biotechnology industry, and the empty brick factories, aging industrial warehouses and acres of parking lots were ripe for new landlords to invest in prime Boston real estate.
Seaport has a long history of prominent corporations calling the waterfront home, including the Boston Wharf Company, the New England Confectionary Company and Gillette, which still operate in the neighborhood. Several of Boston’s esteemed blue-chip companies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Boston Consulting Group and Goodwin, have even traded in their trendy downtown digs for the more affordable Fort Point Channel.
While the waterfront still bustles with industrial and maritime activities, including the cruise ship terminal, companies specializing in big data, robotics, cybersecurity, social networking and healthcare technology are moving in to the neighborhood. These new Seaport companies are well positioned to build strategic partnerships with some of the nation’s largest businesses. Facebook, Google and Microsoft are all based in nearby Cambridge. Within the District, technology, research and development and life sciences businesses are rapidly scooping up office space next to Amazon and Apple.
In its quest to build a new identity while honoring the neighborhood’s rich history, Seaport is committed to rehabbing the dozens of boxy brick buildings and industrial warehouses that have weathered more than a century of Boston winters. On the outside, the fading block lofts built by the Boston Wharf Company still retain their signature cornices and parapets, but the inside features all the luxurious amenities of the 21st century. Likewise, property owners, landlords and artists have recycled many of the vintage industrial warehouses into spacious yet cozy brick-and-beam workplaces.
The classic architecture of the neighborhood is framed by towering glass office buildings that offer sweeping views of downtown Boston. Guidelines from the South Boston Neighborhood District encourage these new buildings to add entrances, windows, terraces, gardens and arcades that enhance pedestrian activity and encourage an active street life.
Overall, more than 10 million square feet has been developed since 2000, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority estimates that another 1.3 million square feet of office space is being rehabilitated or under new construction. Most projects are mixed-use developments that embrace Seaport’s master plan of weaving together high-tech offices and luxury residences that sit atop welcoming street front shops, sleek restaurants, engaging civic centers and attractive open spaces.
In 2016, companies signed new leases for 400,000 square feet of open space despite rising rents. It is common to find office spaces hosting dozens of young companies working through various stages of early development. The collaborative energy generates an inspirational vibe and serves as a breeding ground for new opportunities. Once companies are ready to move into their own space, there are no shortages of affordable options.
New Construction In The Seaport District
At this time, there are several developments that are under construction in the Innovation District that will offer every type of retail and commercial spaces. Many luxury style offices will be developed within the community, as well as high tech office centers.
Several retail developments are either under construction or are in the development stages. Businesses will be pleased to know that they can find just about any size of retail space they desire in this area.
Named as one of the hottest areas in the United States for development, people are flocking to this area because of the luxury living standards and the close proximity to many employers and the universities. Businesses have caught on to this trend and have begun to seek space in this area to be a part of the boom.
The rapid development of this area will be beneficial to any business looking for commercial space in the area. High demand for products and services are occurring because of the influx of people into this area. In addition, as more larger companies relocate here, more people will come into the area and demand for these products and services will again increase.
Commercial space in this area varies in price due to location, size, and amenities. Build-to-suit options are available for any type of industry or business style. The Innovation District is booming, and it is understandable why any business wants to be a part of this vitality.
Seaport’s Notable Commercial Real Estate Developments
Seaport is rapidly becoming the trendiest place in Boston to set down corporate roots. With its innovation migration, the thriving waterfront town is attracting local companies and national corporations for its dynamic and creative atmosphere. Investors from around the globe are eagerly exploring ways to gain some capital in the Mass Miracle 2.0.
Some of the most notable newcomers to the area include:
- In October 2015, 12.5 acres of surface parking lots were purchased for $359 million. The land is slated to include nine buildings offering 4.3 million square feet of retail, restaurant, entertainment and office space.
- Boston’s most expensive commercial real estate transaction in 2016 was the $452 million purchase of the 17-story tower at 101 Seaport Boulevard. The LEED Platinum certified building, which was built in 2015, was valued at a record-breaking $1,027 a square foot. The innovative building houses more than 3,000 professionals working for such notable companies as PwC, Red Thread/Steelcase and Skanska.
- General Electric is embarking on a $200 million project to rehabilitate two brick warehouses and construct a shiny new 12-story building to house its corporate headquarters for 800 employees. The innovative urban space will feature a sustainable rooftop garden, a public-friendly GE museum and a futuristic vibe that can be seen all the way from downtown Boston.
- Amazon has leased 150,000 square feet of space at 252 Summer St. to expand its Alexa voice-activated software, which employs more than 900 workers.
- The grand Fan Pier Green building at 88 Seaport Blvd. will begin construction in 2018 on 18 floors of nearly 60,000 square feet of retail space, 425,000 square feet of office space and 5,000 square feet of cultural use space.
- Next to the striking Institute of Contemporary Art, developers plan to construct a 12-story office tower on Pier 4 that includes ground-floor retail spaces, condos and a public park.
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will move into a prominent new location at 303 Congress St. The seven-year lease on the Innovation and Collaboration space is designed to put the university in the center of forward-thinking companies.
- In Fall 2018, Reebok will move into its new global headquarters in the Innovation and Design Building at 25 Drydock Ave. where 700 workers will occupy 220,000 square feet over five floors. The impressive architectural renderings include a retail store, restaurant, design lab and a running track around the building.
- At the beginning of 2017, Seaport construction projects totaled $1.5 billion. Another $850 million worth of office space, storefronts, condos and apartments are currently in various stages of development.
- Despite a 55 percent increase in office inventory during the past five years, leases are on the uprise. Still, commercial real estate investors will find raw land and existing structures in Seaport a bargain compared to other areas of Boston. With 9.5 million square feet of inventory sitting at 8 percent vacancy, the average rent price is $55.73 per square feet. Other major commerce hubs nearby, such as New York, trade at nearly two-thirds higher prices.
- With such influential headquarters moving into the neighborhood, smart investments opportunities are likely to offer a profitable return. Many of the older Class B properties, which average $52.93 per square foot, can become a strong asset with renovations and common area improvements. Class A rentals are averaging significantly higher at $68.03.
Retail Business Opportunities
The unprecedented demand for office space in Seaport is attracting a skilled labor pool who is looking to set down roots in an urban market. Along with the flourishing technology and innovation companies, Seaport is a hub for artists, photography studios and graphic designers as well as boutiques, eateries and specialty stores. A seasonal farmer’s market, which runs from May through October, is filled with artisan bakers, fresh seafood vendors, organic produce, grass-fed poultry and fair trade coffee.
The upcoming urban neighborhood is flourishing with more than 100 eateries, bars, parks and museums. You’ll find quirky gourmet markets, casual sandwich shops and outdoor café tables along with a multitude of fine-dining and upscale seafood restaurants lining the harbor docks. Iconic chains, such as Starbucks, Verizon Wireless and Dunkin Donuts, share street space with local shops selling everything from floral arrangements and designer jewelry to eclectic art and craft beer.
Yoga teachers, dentists, lawyers and insurance agents are settling into the emerging neighborhood, setting up inviting storefront shops that welcome in local residents, daily commuters and convention visitors. Still, the area is ripe with retail business opportunities since building frontages are required to be active with retail and local services. The Boston Planning and Development Agency is also invested in boosting Seaport’s performing arts scene.
More than 1.1 million square feet of retail is also scheduled to break ground later this year, providing opportunities to join upscale tenants, such as L.L. Bean, Equinox and Shake Shack, which have all already signed commitments. Plans are also in progress to add a bowling alley, movie theater and high-tech fitness center to the mix of condos, stores and offices being built.
Our expert commercial real estate firm can help you pinpoint the perfect location for your company whether you are interested in opening a boutique shop or moving your multimillion dollar headquarters. Our extensive contacts in the booming Innovation District gives you access to some of the hottest projects in town. Browse our online listings of available properties, or to learn more about investment opportunities in Boston’s Seaport District sign up on our site or call us at 617-247-1933.