Boston’s Innovation District

Can we imagine a new urban paradigm where innovative planning strategies and urban design ideas foster new ways of living, working, and interacting in the city? This studio will re-imagine Boston\’s formerly industrial waterfront as an Innovation District–a globally recognized sustainable urban district that can attract young entrepreneurs and creative citizens to Boston. The studio will emphasize both urban design/place-making ideas to reinvent the district as well as policy and implementation strategies to advance a place-making vision. Cities across the globe compete to host emerging enterprises, which bring jobs, investment and cachet. Boston, with its internationally prominent research-driven educational and health care institutions and its strong cultural identity, is well positioned to compete, yet it has often been passed by for Kendall Square in Cambridge, Silicon Valley, North Carolina\’s Research Triangle, or overseas locations. To address this, long-term Mayor Thomas M. Menino recently announced a major initiative to reposition the South Boston Seaport, an area of former railyards, port facilities, and historic wool warehouses across a narrow shipping channel from downtown Boston, as an Innovation District. Co-taught by two planner/urban designers and a land use lawyer, the studio will explore planning and urban design ideas to create a district identity which is innovative in its conception and which itself promotes further interaction and innovation. We will investigate opportunities for new workplace and housing typologies, creative learning and research environments, as well as public spaces that accommodate and inspire new generations of workers and residents. We will also examine policy tools such as land use controls, exactions on private developers, and public incentives to advance this vision for specific development parcels in the district. The studio will thus confront the twin challenges of place-making with a purpose – engineering what often occurs organically – as well as how private and public actors can work in concert to implement a new planning vision. The studio will have the active participation of the City of Boston, through the Mayor\’s Office and the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and several major private landowners in the district.