It’s no secret that people from South Boston are territorial. When outsiders come in and try and take over, we instinctually go on the defense. So I’m taking a moment to defend the area of Southie that I’ve always known as the Waterfront. This area used to be filled with overgrown weeds and cobblestone streets. The only reason to go there was to eat at Jimmy’s Harborside or Anthony’s Pier 4, cut through it to get to Faneuil Hall, or to go to the twenty-minute Mass on Sunday evening at Our Lady of Good Voyage. There wasn’t much down there.
In the 1990s, we began to see some development on the Waterfront with new hotels, residential buildings, and the addition of the Convention Center. Then, Mayor Menino and the local media decided to change the name of this area. I’m not sure how much thought was put into this name change, but I hope it wasn’t much because the new name they came up with was “The Seaport District”. I can’t imagine there was a big brainstorming session, and “The Seaport District” was what came out of it. I’m hoping someone was rushing to a meeting and was like, “Shit, I never thought of a new name for the South Boston Waterfront,” and pulled “The Seaport District” out of their ass to present to future developers.
Basically, the city and the media just wanted to drop South Boston from the name. The only problem was every time the media mentioned The Seaport District; they had to follow it with “on the South Boston Waterfront”, so people knew where the hell it was. For example, “Mayor Menino wants to relocate City Hall down the Seaport District on the South Boston Waterfront.”
Everyone knows that over the past few years, the Waterfront has transformed into a hotspot of new restaurants, bars, art, and culture. Seven nights a week, it’s packed with people drinking, dining, and dancing. So now the mayor figures it’s time for a new nickname. You know something to capture the new look and electric atmosphere down on the Waterfront. Something cool and catchy that will make even more people want to visit and spend their hard-earned money on expensive meals and entertainment. A name that will really stick this time. So what did they come up with? “The Innovation District.”
Cool, right? Nope. Innovation District sort of sounds like it could be a section of Disney World – but a section that you might want to skip. Like it might be filled with attractions that are history-based and slightly boring. “Do you wanna check out the Thomas Edison Experience at Innovation District?”
“Innovation District.” Rolls right off that tongue, right? I think they should shorten it and go with just the initials, like the OC. “Heading to the ID this weekend. Gonna bird dog chicks and drink my fill of White Russians.”
What does “Innovation District” mean? I checked the Innovation District’s website, and it reads, “A new approach is called for on the waterfront – one that is both more deliberate and more experimental… The massive expanse of the South Boston waterfront, with its existing knowledge base, the opportunity for growth, and world-class infrastructure, is ripe for producing world-class products and services.” –Mayor Thomas M. Menino. I’m still not exactly sure what that means, but I think the mayor wants people to live and work in close proximity to each other so they can more easily share ideas. That makes sense. It makes so much sense that hundreds of years ago, people created these clusters of innovative people where they could share ideas, do experiments, and invent things. They called them college campuses.
A few months back, a noticed something alarming. The Waterfront and Fort Point neighborhoods are festooned with new flags that boast, “Innovation District”. So where exactly is the Innovation District? If you look at the map on the Innovation District’s website, it looks like it covers just under half of Southie. It includes the entire area from the Black Falcon Terminal to the Moakley Federal Courthouse. I made the assumption that Summer Street would be the natural boundary since it’s always been the traditional boundary for the Southie Waterfront. But I was wrong – the Innovation District goes all the way up to West Second Street, which would mean the Boston Athletic Club and Gillette is included in this new district.
This new Innovation District seems to be spreading like a rash. The Fort Point area was originally designated by the city several years ago as an artist community. The Innovation District’s footprint fully encapsulates the Fort Point Neighborhood. Somehow the Fort Point neighborhood has been lumped into the Innovation District too. The new 11-story office building and park that is being built on A Street – a block from Amrhein’s mind you – has been named part of the Innovation District by the mayor. Really? That used to be called St. Vincent’s Parish or the Lower End.
Honestly, it’s just being greedy. And where was the city years ago when this would be future Innovation District, consisted of weeds, cobblestones, and abandoned cars with hobos living in them? The city certainly wasn’t taking ownership of it then. It was Southie then and it’s Southie now. And the mayor should just roll with it. Southie is hot. Hollywood can’t wait to exploit us. Real estate developers have been exploiting us for years. Anything with the word Southie in it will sell. So Mayor Menino, just call it Southie. It’s way cooler than the Innovation District in the Seaport District on the South Boston Waterfront.
Lower End homeowner since 2005. Mom of three BPS kids. Friend to all except those who don’t clean up after their dogs and/or who put their trash out in kitchen bags (seriously, people, it’s not that hard to use a barrel). Queen of the Nerds (okay that one is only in my dreams).
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The innovation district is going to be what Cambridge was to tech start-ups (Bentley College has a presence here) because it’s too expensive for these companies to thrive in Cambridge now which is all well and good — but I agree if you have to be a Southie resident to park there, call it Southie. I happen to know this because I work in that industry and we are moving to the “Innovation District” in January.
I have much respect for your fondness of Southie. The strong sentiments for the community from people like yourself is in part what makes the area such a great place to live. I too have grown to love the community feel and believe it is what distinguishes Southie from the other neighborhoods of Boston.
While change is not always easy, it is an inevitable part of life. Your article appears to indicate a reluctance to the redevelopment in Southie. I appreciate your admiration for the Southie you remember growing but as Harold Wilson once said, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.” The long time residents of Southie have a real opportunity to have significant influence in the inevitable process of change.
I disagree with the “Change is a part of Life” comment. I don’t think Peter was saying he doesn’t want redevelopemnt. It seems as though he is for it. What he is against, is the fact the city feels the need to change the name when technically it’s South Boston. Because an area is redeveloped, why does the name need to change?
Always been Southie – always will. Leave the name alone. And hey, I haven’t heard the word hobo in a very long time!!!