Sizing Up Seaport Square
Seaport Square, located on Boston's thriving waterfront, includes 23 acres of living, retail, and commercial space. The project was conceived and developed by WS Development, which envisions the multi-use center being a place for Boston's residents to live, work, and play. The massive complex covers the last sizable stretch of available land in the city, and WS Development intends for it to meet the increasingly expanding and sophisticated Boston population's needs. As with other large-scale projects, the developer's plans have been met with mixed reactions. In a departure from the original plans, it now intends to add three new theaters to the site, which is drawing negative reactions from local residents and businesses.
The project is situated in the Seaport District, which is an up-and-coming area of undeveloped land in South Boston. The center's original plans called for 2.75M SF of residential space, 1.25M SF of office space, 1.25M SF of retail space, 800,000 SF for hotels, 265,000 SF for civic and cultural venues, and 2.25M SF of parking space (6,000 parking spots). The project also leaves room for greenery. With just under 40 percent of open space and 25 percent green space, its outdoor plans include parks, gardens, and other outdoor attractions. Recently, the developer announced a change of plans to include an additional construction of three theatres. Two of those theaters will have a total of 650 seats. Their size, concerned residents worry, will detract from the popularity of the Seaport Performing Arts Center, which is located on Summer Street. The third venue is expected to be a community center located elsewhere on the project site. In addition to the addition of the cultural centers, the developer has plans to expand the amount of green and open space on the project site. It also announced new opportunities for emerging businesses, with a certain amount of retail space being dedicated for use by startups and small businesses. The developer also plans to extend the lease of District Hall through 2033. It has also offered to financially support increased reliable transportation to the area, including fronting $2.5M over the next decade to support water ferries and expand the Silver Line to the Seaport.
The motive for the developer's plans are unclear, but some speculate that acted to rectify earlier criticism when it announced plans to scrap construction of a 200,000 SF of cultural and entertainment center. WS Development countered that in a city saturated with cultural institutions, it saw more opportunity in focusing on economic growth, new residential opportunities, and preserving open spaces.
Only time will tell if the public approves of the developer's new plans, but many support the fundamental concept. Unlike other areas of Boston, the Seaport area has not yet seen extensive economic growth and revitalization. This project presents an opportunity for that neighborhood to catch up with surrounding neighborhoods. WS Development adds that its project sits in the heart of Boston's Innovation District, which makes it a prime opportunity for businesses to get off the ground. The center, in keeping with the spirit of entrepreneurship, will make room for flexible office space. Transportation, WS Development says, is another critical component of its project. The entity plans to give residents and visitors direct access to many types of public transportation. Boston Logan airport, which is one of the busiest on the East Coast, will be a short drive or taxi ride away. The area is also within walking distance of Boston's Financial District, which means that the project will have tremendous new opportunity for those looking to live near the places they work and have reliable, fast transportation to their offices.
In keeping with Boston's tradition of preserving history and open space, the developer plans to make its residences and businesses energy efficient. Its plan to expand the amount of green and open space within its boundaries will likely be well received by the public, as a main concern of development throughout Boston is the loss of open space available for public use.
Seaport Square is a joint development project supported by Boston Global Investors and Morgan Stanley in addition to WS Development.