A neighborhood’s identity shouldn’t just be able to be wiped out by fiat — at least not without some stiff resistance. In the span of a decade, though, the mass of land sandwiched between the Fort Point Channel, First Street, and Boston Harbor has been wiped clean twice, as Boston’s Seaport District was rechristened first as the South Boston Waterfront, and then as the city’s Innovation District. Fierce (if shifting) identity politics define Boston, and no one would dare pull this trick in a place like Roslindale; it’s a testament to how disconnected the Seaport is from the rest of Boston that City Hall managed to pull it off twice in a short span.
The redevelopment of Boston’s old industrial waterfront has come in fits and starts, but the hundreds of undeveloped acres across the channel represent far too big a prize for the effort’s conclusion to ever be in doubt. Once the Seaport building boom winds down, will the district exist as just a collection of buildings ringed by streets, or will it become a real, functioning, breathing neighborhood, the way the Back Bay and South Boston are?