Rising rents driving some startups away from the Innovation District

The Boston Business Journal reports some entrepreneurs are now setting up shop in Downtown Crossing rather than pay rents that have jumped dramatically along the waterfront.



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'Innovation' District...LOL

Seriously, Boston and metro Boston are always going to have trouble regarding over the top rents because prices are kept artificially high due to almost zero construction and renovation of anything non-luxury or government subsidized for the 'poor'.

Oh noes

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But then whiny suburbanites will lose some of their cheap parking that they're entitled to have!

On another note, I think it's good news that companies want to move to DTX.

I agree that this is great

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I agree that this is great news for DTX but what I don't get is this us versus them attitude I see here more recently. What, you don't want suburbanites coming in to spend their money, or work in town?
I believe the fiscal health of a city like Boston is dependant upon those evil suburbanites you wish would go away.

And, in addition, many of those evil people actually were born and raised in Boston but moved out of the city when they started their families. I feel many of those complaining are relatively new to living in the city. Just my observation.

Less dependent than you think

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I do want them to come and work here and do stuff here. However, I don't want to pay for them to do it by offering them subsidized highways and parking lots that destroy our quality of life as well as our finances.

If a person makes a choice to move to another town, that is very well and their right. But they don't have any right to come back and demand that we give them free or under-priced land for their vehicle, and expensive infrastructure to support their particular automobile-dependent lifestyle.

A parking space is about 200 square feet. Land is expensive here. Rental on that much space probably would run about $300-$500 a month. I don't get to have a piece of public land for nothing, why should they?

We have a system that, for all its faults, is the most effective and space-efficient way to accommodate large numbers of people coming from out of town and wanting to spend time in the city. It's there for everyone to use, so use it.

While I agree

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With you initial sentiment about the quality of life, etc., I fail to see how 14 dollars to park is "underpriced". I know I can't afford to drive to work over there. The land was never meant to be permanently parking anyways and has been slated for development for at least ten years. Development slowed with the recession and it remained parking for longer than expected.

Much of the parking lot land was used either as stable space or was empty for a long time before this.

I'm puzzled by this

I'm puzzled by this anti-suburbanite/anti-car bias that is so often expressed. Cities by definition are centers of population and businesses that allow them to earn a living. Perhaps folks who seem to have a real problem with suburbanites, especially if they drive a car into the city, don't understand how interconnected we all are.

Allow me to lay it out. Much of the cities revenue comes from property taxes. These taxes are paid for by building owners who either employ people or rent to companies that employ people.

Some of these people are commuters who live in the suburbs. They may commute too far away to ride a bicycle to work. Many of them already use public transit, but some due to work schedule or location may not find public transit to be a good option. There are trade people who need to carry tools, service workers who need to carry equipment, Nurses who work varying shifts. Indeed I would imagine that most public transportation workers, many of whom live in the suburbs, need to drive to work so they can take out that first bus or train in the morning.

As the previous poster pointed out, part of the success of Boston has to do with commuters who come into the city every day, do spend some money in the city which benefits all Boston residents

Rather than being "entitled" it's perfectly reasonable that there are places that people can park their cars when they come to work or to patronize businesses in the city.

It is simplistic thinking to stomp one's foot and will suburbanites and car drivers away from the city.

Hope this helps.

The cost, monetary and otherwise, is the reason

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The "entitled" part comes from the fact that suburbanites expect us to shoulder the debt burden of paying dozens of billions of dollars in order to supply them with free or under-priced highways and parking garages.

And as if that wasn't enough, we also bear the burden of living with the blight and destruction wreaked by all this car infrastructure.

Suburbanites consistently refuse to acknowledge that their lifestyle choices should not trump the right of other people to live in peace. And that's why I call them "entitled."

You are starting a petty

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You are starting a petty argument where there wasn't one before (as is your custom).

When has any project in Boston ever been stopped because users of a parking lot complained that it was being replaced by a building?

Let's not forget all the

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Let's not forget all the whiny "startup" owners who think they are entitled to anything they want at the expense of the people who already live here. Then you get upset when you we don't just bend over and instead promise you the worst lease experience possible for acting like a pisspoor neighbor.

Car culture gone amuck

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Having lived in both NYC and Philly prior to living in Boston, I never understood how ingrained having to drive everywhere is a part of Boston culture. Seriously people - why do you insist on driving everywhere?
Oh, but I mentioned NYC so I'm sure the trolls are just going to bash this comment to pieces.

While I don't know much about airway rights in Boston, why not just build on top of the parking lots. First 2-3 stories be business or retail, 3-4 stories of parking, then residential on top of that.

Public Transit

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Why do people coming into Boston drive? Because it is faster! I work in the "innovation" district and took the commuter rail out of North Station for a year. It takes 20-25 minutes to get to North Station no matter how you go, and yes walking is often faster than subway. Then, you have a rail system where the "rush hour" trains run every 30 minutes. In average traffic I can now drive home in less than an hour and get into the city in the morning in 35 minutes. This is compared to taking the train which is 90+ minutes both ways - assuming none of the frequent 5-10 minute delays or missing a train and waiting another 30 minutes.

If you want to get people out of their cars, the public transit needs to be MUCH better. If trains ran every 15-20 minutes at rush hour on all commuter rail lines and there was a 15 minute DIRECT CONNECTION between North and South Stations... guess what... most people in cars would take the train because (for most of the city) it would be faster and cheaper!

You're right

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But, you know, it's a dilemma. If more people would take the train then it wouldn't be treated like shit politically, and they wouldn't have dropped things like the North/South link on the floor when designing the Big Dig. But they plunged tens of billions of dollars into making it easier to drive, so it's not surprising that people are choosing to do that instead, and that ultimately leads to service cuts on the MBTA. It's true they also blew hundreds of millions of dollars on quixotic commuter rail expansions, but those only serve a few thousand people, and are also politically-driven. They go to affluent South Shore communities and, despite that, are going to be cut on weekends anyway come July 1.

DTX has the advantage of being equally easy to reach from North or South Station, at least. The most popular north side station is Salem, which is probably because it receives double the frequency of the other lines, and because the train is very competitive time-wise with driving. Which north side line were you coming from, if you don't mind?

Matt, more people ARE

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taking public transport. It's still treated like shit.

Beacon hill and the reps from outside the 495 beltway like to use it as a us vs them tool. Which is unfortunate, especially since this is mostly Democrats playing that card. They should know better.

Anyways, it's also a sort of chicken and egg problem; the faster and better they make it, the more riders will use it, but more riders are needed to justify more revenue to make it faster and better. All the while the central and west part of the state starts screaming "how does this effect us!? Why we gotta pay!?", without even mentioning the tax dollars thrown their way to keep their roads and bridges up.

It bugs me. Compare rural NH to Rural MA road networks and you know why they should have a stake in growing economic boosting infrastructure inside 495/95. The better our area does, the more funding for roads and infrastructure projects out west.

I shopped for office space in the Innovation District last year

And was thoroughly unimpressed with the value. We ended up near Downtown Crossing as well: much nicer space in a good-looking building for less money, more favorable terms, better nearby amenities: restaurants, bars, cafes, retail, public transport. (Plus I hate most of the stupid, overpriced, chain-y restaurants in the Seaport.)

PLUS real transit

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PLUS real transit connections, which I imagine is kind of important for upstart companies looking to woo young employees-- 4 subway lines within a couple of blocks versus a bouncy bus going 10mph while you try not to trip over conventioners' luggage.

Urbanistically there is NOTHING innovative about this district. If not for the ICA and the pavilion it would be a black hole for me. Just big boulevards, big chain restaurants and big ugly buildings....

I'm tending to agree

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plus, it's not pedestrian friendly at all down there. Maybe that huge 12 acre development that's going to change streets and stuff might help, but the stuff already there isn't as dense as it could have been nor pedestrian friendly.

What's not pedestrian

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What's not pedestrian friendly about that area? The sidewalks are about twice as wide as downtown crossing and I don't have to step over the one legged homeless vet oozing on the sidewalk or navigate my way through hordes of rowdy teenagers who like to hang out and block the whole pedestrial mall in downtown crossing. And, If I find the sidewalks to be "unfriendly", I can alwasys walk along the beautiful waterfront harbor walk instead.

Pedestrian friendliness is

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Pedestrian friendliness is not just about sidewalk width.

Most of south Florida suburban sprawl has sidewalks that are plenty wide. Yet it is pedestrian hell.

Buildings that take up an entire square block, with endless façade and loading docks and garage entrances facing the pedestrian, do not make for a welcoming pedestrian experience.

See this street, for instance.

The biggest problem with

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The biggest problem with pedestrian access in the Seaport area is simply crossing the street. The streets are wide (appropriate that one is called Seaport Boulevard), but it takes a long time to get a "walk" signal at one of the traffic lights. It's not the same scooting across a one-lane Washington Street in DTX, as opposed to playing Frogger across a six-lane road with not much of a divider.

I was down there last night with my mother (who uses a white-tipped cane for navigation). While we didn't have any big problems, we had to wait a long time to cross streets, and some of the sidewalks along Seaport Blvd. are not completely level (although better than cobblestones and uneven bricks).

While it was nice to see a lot of people and traffic through there at the end of rush hour, the biggest things I noticed were that the restaurant waits were too long (2 hours at Legal, over an hour at most others -- I know the Bio convention is in town), and the Silver Line needs to be light rail, as opposed to a slow, rough bus ride. We managed to have a nice salad and drinks at Whiskey Priest (although it was loud) and a return trip to the main South Boston was quick. (A crosstown bus down D St. to connect to Andrew Square is needed to connect to the Broadway corridor.)

Light rail is the problem

There are some heterodox planners who believe that the wide streets movement, while well-intentioned, has led to development that feels unfriendly to humans, specifically in street size.

Commonwealth Ave from Brighton Ave to BC is an example of a streetcar boulevard which actually feels desolate in the street because it's too wide. Most of our streets are the width they are because they were designed for streetcars to run down the middle.

Most of these streets could have new buildings built right in the middle of them, really narrow streets without the division of walking/driving, get rid of most stoplights, and traffic would probably move faster overall.

It's going to take a visionary to make this happen though, the established traffic engineers would never allow it.

Nor would the legislature

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Anything that goes against car culture, or the nice partitioning off of neighborhoods and districts is DOA.

It feels desolate because the

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It feels desolate because the Olmsted designed avenue is missing most of the large trees originally intended to line the street and trolley reservation. The few large trees which have survived along this stretch DRAMATICALLY change the feel of the avenue.

Olmsted never anticipated...

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...high speed auto traffic. That's why so many of his boulevards and parkways have been turned into gritty highways and arterial roads.

Back then, there was this ideology which believed that every street could be turned into the Champs-Élysées, attracting "promenaders" who would magically spring up to provide life and vitality to the wide and desolate corridor. Mostly those promises turned out to be rubbish. Although, sometimes it seems people still haven't learned better...

Internet access

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The other issue, not discussed in this article, is that internet access in the Innovation district is not that great. Comcast is not in a lot of buildings and even where there is Comcast, its an effective monopoly. You can't really be an "innovation district" if there isn't sufficient access to the tools needed to innovate.

This is good for DTX

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The city has messed up DTX enough, and it doesn't need the city's help to revitalize. A breath of fresh, innovative air is just what Downtown Crossing needs.

Public transit

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I would also guess that DTX has a certain allure, being the best served neighborhood by public transit. As against the Seaport, which has a 10mph underground bus line that stub-ends at South Station.

There's no way to create a

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There's no way to create a single, permanent incubator district unless there's some form of rent control. Otherwise companies will continue to flock back and forth to various districts to capitalize on the gentrification effect.


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Many of the rents are artificially inflated - not by a ton, but by a few percent due to the tax breaks. Begs the question why the city if giving tax breaks rather than just telling the landlord to lower the rent a few percent - somewhat of a rhetorical question.

As for lack of supply - nothing could be further from the truth. Scott Van Voorhis, formerly of the Herald recently wrote an article - possibly in the Boston Biz Journal noting that the metro area has added 45 million sf of commercial space over the last roughly 15 years to the then existing 165 million sf. Unfortunately there has been almost no job growth to fill that space and almost all of that 45 million sf is still vacant. There are pockets of prosperity - the Back Bay and to a lesser extent some of the new buildings in the "Innovation District" (which curiosly is getting filled via tax breaks to "innovative banks"?)- but that has come almost entirely at the expense of other office space in the city.

It's basically a big game of musical chairs.

That's without considering

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That's without considering the acres of empty office parks in the 128 belt. Maybe it's time to consider reverting some of those empty office parks back into farmland!

Cue Talking Heads

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"this was a Pizza Hut--now its all covered in daisies!"

DTX is an awesome place to

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DTX is an awesome place to have an office. you can walk to everything, had great access to the T, interesting architecture. Great selection of restaurants (from high end to po'boy specials). Miss it dearly.

what's innovative about making money?

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There ARE buildings coming up in the parking lots in Fort Point. More than would be wise. And, unfortunately, NOTHING INNOVATIVE. The traffic is already horrendous - one of the main arguments against overdeveloping this area and for the existing commuters and visitors to utilize PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION or bike. What's not friendly to pedestrians are crosswalks where the signal has to be operated in order to get a walk signal (if you are lucky). Even in this "innovative" area of a "walking" City, cars are more important than people. But aren't drivers people - and sometimes pedestrians - too?
What is innovative about creating a fake buzz about an area in order to sell overpriced real estate? Been there, seen that. In California, Florida... the results would make you shudder. As my dad said; nothing much to do when money and politician are involved (and developers, I would add).

The city fails to understand

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The city fails to understand that putting a 20 foot wide sidewalk next to a road wide enough to be a six lane surface freeway does not equate to a 'pedestrian friendly area' or experience.