ICYMI: How Boston’s Startup Ecosystem Sparked the Rise of Mixed-Use Development

Original story by Ethan Bukowiec on BostInno

May 20, 2015

Boston and the surrounding areas are in the midst of a large-scale building development boom, as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved 62 projects totaling more than $3B in 2014 and another $215M in new projects this past April alone.

“There’s a new beat in Boston,” says Marc Savatsky, development project manager for New Boston Ventures. “The city is experiencing an urban renaissance, growing twice as fast as the rest of the state. Intense pent-up demand for housing has given rise to an incredible residential development boom.”

With the across-the-board hike in Boston development has come a surge in mixed-use developments combining residential, office, commercial and community spaces.

In looking at the BRA’s list of projects recently completed, under construction or under review, there is a litany of mixed-use developments popping up throughout Boston’s neighborhoods.

We’ve certainly enjoyed what these developments have to offer, as Assembly Row is a popular destination for shopping, dining and late-night fun, but what triggered this latest trend?

Marc Savatsky of New Boston Ventures attributes the rise in mixed-use developments to Boston's innovation-based economy.

It may come as no surprise that Boston’s fast-growing innovation-based economy is behind the utilization of mixed-use developments, as the thriving industry is a key driver of the city’s economic strength and population growth, according to Savatsky.

With an ever-evolving educational community allowing Boston to attract and retain talent, and a startup cluster that continues to grow and provide people jobs in a high-demand market, Boston is flooded with 20-to-34-year-olds looking for housing.

In adjusting to the influx of young professionals flocking to Boston, developers have chosen to incorporate more mixed-use development because of its appeal to the demographic.

“Mixed-use developments offer a blend of different uses and this age group has shown a preference for walking, taking public transportation to work and living near shops, restaurants, great public spaces and cultural offerings,” Savatsky says. “These developments make live-work-play cities and neighborhoods more attainable.”

As Boston continues to advance itself as a world-class hub of innovation and take steps towards scaling as an innovation economy as a whole, the need for future mixed-use developments isn’t going away. And there are a number of properties in the works.

While Assembly Row embodies Boston’s urban culture, the highly anticipated Seaport Square — which is set to be complete by Summer 2017— is being built to capture Boston’s innovation spirit.

The 23-acre community is located in the heart of the Innovation District and will bring 6.3 million square feet of offices, residences, open space, a hotel, restaurants and 15 lots of parking to a 1,000-acre portion of South Boston fostering innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.

In addition, the South End recently welcomed Ink Block, a vast six-acre complex, comprised of three apartment buildings, a luxury condo structure, and a ground-level flagship Whole Foods. And Fenway’s Van Ness expects to open between May and June, and the dual-tower building has one structure devoted to residential purposes and another dedicated to commercial use.

Our startup community is showing no signs of slowing in its growth, and in order to keep up, future mixed-use developments are in the works.