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It's a good thing they don't call it the Innovation District anymore, otherwise, one developer's proposal for a veterinary clinic might be kind of embarrassing

The developer of the Waterside Place residential towers on Congress Street says that after five years, it's been unable to find any start-up incubators or other innovative tenants to lease roughly 3,600 square feet of space it had set aside for "innovation" work space, so it's asking the BPDA to let it lease the space to people the neighborhood actually needs: Veterinarians.

The Drew Company needs BPDA approval to lease the space to the Boston Veterinary Clinic because while perhaps important to a neighborhood where people move in with pets, veterinary services do not fit the definition of "innovative" that the company agreed to use the space for as part of its 2011 Waterside Place approval by the BPDA, a definition that included such potential clients as "co-working groups to technology-based start-ups to financial firms focused on incubating entrepreneurial enterprises."

In a filing with the BPDA this week, Drews says it tried and tried to find a tenant for what was originally 7,000 square feet of "innovation" space at the site - roughly half of which the BPDA in 2016 let the company lease to a health center because of its difficulties in finding tenants. None of the 25 inquiries from potential tenants went anywhere - Not even hiring a firm that specializes in urban-space leasing helped - Drew says.

Unfortunately, it appears that most prospective tenants are either unable to secure financing for their business concepts or had other business reasons affecting their interest in the space. The 3,593 square feet of space continues to sit vacant nearly 5 years after the completion of the project.

In asking for permission to allow the vet clinic, Drew pointed to the growing problem in the Seaport caused by developers rapidly putting up tons of apartments, condos and offices without much thought for the sorts of services people who spend significant amounts of time in the area would actually need:

While the use does not technically qualify as “innovation”, it does provide a much needed neighborhood service to area residents and
workers. Currently serving the South End community, Boston Vet’s expansion to South Boston would be a welcome amenity to the Seaport District, which is woefully lacking in community services for its residents and workers, especially given the high percentage of area residents that have pets with no close proximity to veterinary services.

Waterside Place Phase 1A notice of project change (96k PDF).


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...pretty soon they'll be asking for grocery stores and schools and all kinds of normal-people stuff, and the whole concept of the neighborhood will go to hell!

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Notably, the filing does not include the rental rate. Perhaps the market simply dictates that they LOWER the rent, rather than escape the conditions that accompanied them getting zoning relief?

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If high rent were the problem, do you really think a veterinary clinic would be wanting to rent it but not a tech company?

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Will also be woofing about Seaport traffic being unbearable

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When I asked the rental agent in January 2016 about rents, I was told 4,000 square feet of space would run me $45/square foot. This was advertised as discounted space for "innovative" companies while market rate in the Seaport was around $65/square foot, according to the agent.

That's $180,000 per year or $15,000 per month, plus build-out costs.

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Unfortunately their timing was bad. We Work and other flexible space providers do a much better job at leasing space to businesses who don't want to commit to a long lease and to figure out fitting out the space. The single location can't compete with the global brands.

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