I love Boston. I lived and worked here for 20 plus years. My own little office has been in the Seaport district and South End for the last 8 years. Open loft office, bad HVAC ,cheap rent. It is, or rather was, a place for small start up companies to live. But developers are always looking for the next big thing. These areas are being bought up and developed into condos and apartments.
Reading Scott Kirsner’s article this morning sadden me. He is right of course, as he is well plugged into the start up ecosystem in the area. This new “Boston Innovation Center” is just another insult. It is not cheap office space for start ups. It is a conference center and a restaurant. But wait — is there not a beautiful and mostly unused conference center across a few block? How about asking the Boston Convention Center to contribute part the space for used by smaller businesses? A quick look at their schedule shows that they are not that booked up.
If the city actually meant to foster innovation and small business instead of pander mostly to large real estate developers, they should try the affordable housing model. Each time a developer gets approval to put up any new buildings, they have to contribute to a portion of low rent office space elsewhere.
The City’s responsibility is to bring infrastructure to these low rent office space areas to help them thrive — we need:
- affordable and working transportation
- parking and bike lanes
- high speed internet connection (city of Boston is one place where you cannot get cheap FIOS)
- cheap food and cheap rent
As a bonus if you target problem areas in Boston, it will help energize the neighborhoods. Except sadly I know this will not happen without some new innovation from the top.