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Innovation economy

The surge in Seaport construction continues

The cranes aren’t coming down anytime soon in Boston’s fastest-evolving neighborhood.

A new public plaza that is being built as part of the renovated World Trade Center is currently being constructed in the Seaport.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

If you shopped in the Seaport District this month, or dropped by the Snowport holiday market for some curling and hot chocolate, you may have noticed that the neighborhood is still very much under construction. Cranes, safety fencing, and workers in hard hats are everywhere, continuing a development marathon that has been underway for more than a decade.

To understand what’s coming next to the Seaport, I took a walk around on a recent Friday with Yanni Tsipis, a senior vice president at WS Development. The Chestnut Hill based developer is responsible for the Seaport Square complex, the Snowport, and several big office projects. After our walk, I compiled a list of 12 projects that are under construction or in the works — but not yet open. (I put together a similar list last month for Kendall Square; neither list includes projects that are planning stages.)

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Tsipis notes that between the cleanup of Boston Harbor, construction work on the Ted Williams Tunnel, the launch of the MBTA’s Silver Line, and the opening of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in 2004, “you had something like $20 billion of public investment really centered on one point, most of it over a really intense 10 year period.” Not to mention the rest of the Big Dig, which removed the elevated Interstate 93 highway that acted as a physical and psychological barrier between Downtown Boston and the South Boston Waterfront. All that infrastructure spending set the stage for what’s happening now in the Seaport.

We’ll start just across the Summer Street bridge from South Station, and head toward the neighborhood’s eastern edge, at the still-functioning drydock.

15 Necco St.: This parcel, right on the Fort Point Channel, was set to become part of General Electric’s headquarters campus, but we all know how that went. Now it’ll be a research site for the Indiana-based pharma company Eli Lilly & Co. The 12-story building, designed by Boston architecture firm Elkus Manfredi, will feature a rooftop deck as well as ground-level public space that will include retail, walking paths, and a “work lounge.” Construction should wrap up late in 2023, with Lilly’s Institute for Genetic Medicine moving in the following year. GE’s smaller headquarters, at 5 Necco St., will be a next-door neighbor.

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350 Summer St.: Designed by Morris Adjmi Architects of New York to echo the old wool warehouses of Fort Point Channel. A 16-story office/R&D combo, with 40,000 square feet of retail on the first and second floors. No tenants announced yet. Garage and foundation work is underway.

400 Summer St.: Like 350 Summer, this project is designed by Morris Adjmi Architects. It will be the new headquarters of Foundation Medicine, a maker of diagnostic tests for cancer, now based in Kendall Square. The building will also include 30,000 square feet of retail. Being built in between 350 Summer and 400 Summer are the Summer Steps, a grand outdoor stairway (and bike ramp) that will connect Summer Street with Congress Street, and then link with a new park called Harbor Way.

Construction on One Boston Wharf, a new 17-story office building designed by Henning Larsen architects of Copenhagen. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

One Boston Wharf: A 17-story office building designed by Henning Larsen architects of Copenhagen. When complete in 2024, Tsippis says, it will be the largest net zero carbon office building in Boston. The primary tenant is Amazon, but it’s unclear how Amazon’s recent layoffs and hiring freeze for some roles will affect its use of the building. The building will also include ground floor retail and a performing arts center, with two live performance venues, the larger one with 500 seats.

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Harbor Way: A linear park that will run from the aforementioned Summer Steps at Summer Street to the edge of the harbor. It’s being designed by James Corner Field Operations, the landscape architecture firm that created New York’s High Line, a public park atop an elevated rail track.

The Superette, a new cluster of hip shops planted around a central courtyard in the Seaport.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Superette: A new cluster of hip shops planted around a central courtyard. Opening over the next few months are the Garrett Bar, “a clandestine watering hole entered through a walk-in freezer door,” according to its online description; Borrachito, a Mexico City-style taqueria; furniture retailer Blu Dot; Mia’s Brooklyn Bakery; personal care products from Aesop; and apparel shop Faherty.

10 World Trade: Boston Global Investors and Prudential are behind the construction of a 17-story office and lab building designed by Boston architecture firm Sasaki. While no tenants have been announced, the building will include a food hall, a 150-seat auditorium, and a top-floor fitness center with a 300-meter indoor track. Slated to open in late 2024.

The MBTA’s Silver Line is getting a $15 million new entrance with an escalator, elevator, and signage along Seaport Boulevard.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

New Silver Line entrance: The MBTA’s Silver Line gets a $15 million entrance with an escalator, elevator, and signage along Seaport Boulevard. Like most of what’s being built in the Seaport today, it was designed with features to mitigate flooding caused by sea level rise.

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60 Seaport Blvd.: Coming soon to the complex already occupied by a bowling alley and darts club are Grace by Nia, a restaurant with live jazz, and the Alamo Draft House Cinema. Founded in Austin, Texas, the Alamo Draft House will be a 10-screen multiplex serving food, beer, and cocktails. (It replaces the Showplace Icon multiplex, felled by the pandemic.) They’ve got strict rules about talking and texting. Also: no ads shown before movies.

A rebuilt World Trade Center has been under construction on Commonwealth Pier for most of 2022, but a public plaza overlooking the harbor is now taking shape.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Seaport World Trade: A rebuilt World Trade Center has been under construction on Commonwealth Pier for most of 2022, but a public plaza overlooking the harbor is now taking shape. The Harborwalk public pathway will circumnavigate the pier. Fidelity Investments will still occupy office space here, and the amount of retail, food, and beverage offerings will increase as space for conferences and trade shows decreases. Set to be finished in 2024.

2 Harbor Life Sciences Center: A seven-story lab and office building, designed by New York-based Handel Architects, with a new green space on the corner of Haul Road and Northern Avenue — mainly because the Ted Williams Tunnel passes below that part of the site, limiting how much weight can sit atop it.

19 Fid Kennedy Ave.: One of the startups that late Boston mayor Thomas Menino lured to the Seaport in 2009 with a $150,000 loan, Ginkgo Bioworks, is now publicly-traded and has more than 1,200 employees. The company operates what it calls “foundries” to design unique living organisms that can crank out drugs, chemicals, and synthetic foods. It will move from the Innovation & Design building just across the drydock into a new two-building complex here called Foundry at Drydock. The Boston architecture firm Dream Collaborative is handling the design, with construction slated to wrap up in 2024. The site was once the headquarters of Au Bon Pain.

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Pedestrians cross the Moakley Bridge into the Seaport District on Sept. 28, 2022. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

There are two other projects to keep an eye on for 2023, one involving more construction, and one involving demolition.

WS Development may begin building 88 Seaport next year on a vacant lot. It will be yet another tower that blends office and lab space, but this one looks like a gem-cutter practiced on its glittery façade. The architect is Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Modern Architecture. (The angularity complements its next-door neighbor, District Hall, a public gathering place that was intended as temporary, but will endure until at least 2033, according to Tsipis.)

Facing the wrecking ball will be a humble three-story brick building at 24 Drydock Ave., built in the early days of World War II to house Army and Navy crew and officers. It’s one of those buildings I’d always hoped someone would renovate, because it so clearly is part of a past era, when the South Boston Army base was a busy logistics hub, shipping troops and equipment off to Europe. But it has been deemed historically insignificant. It’s in rough shape, and it hasn’t been used for 20 years, according to Bruce Zaniol, CFO of North Atlantic Ship Repair.

So it will soon be supplanted by an eight-story building that will serve as the new headquarters for Boston Ship Repair, a subsidiary of North Atlantic Ship Repair, which operates the drydock, with space for other tenants — likely involved in life sciences and other research activities — on the upper floors.

In some parts of Boston, progress can feel grindingly slow. That’s not a problem in the Seaport, where an entirely new skyline has sprung up before our eyes.


Scott Kirsner can be reached at kirsner@pobox.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKirsner.