Yesterday, Mitch Weiss, Mayor Menino’s Chief of Staff, presented the vision the Innovation District to over 200 local designers and business leaders at the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts (DIGMA) “Design Means Business” conference. The conference theme was about going “back to the drawing board, not the board room… to rethink, restructure, and relaunch,” which made for a perfect place to have a discussion about the Innovation District.
Weiss opened with the vision for the next generation of the South Boston waterfront, adding that “we need to get back to good design” for the district to be a success. He proposed that “we all have a unique opportunity to actually do innovation in a place where designers are next to manufacturers… because proximity matters and design matters.” He also called for designers to move their businesses to the Innovation District to be an integral part of the nexus of the growing sectors already down there and to contribute to the district’s core principle of being an urban lab. He mentioned that when companies tell him they want to be in the Innovation District, they say “it’s more than being on the water and it’s more than the beauty of the place. It’s the idea.”
During Q & A, Barbara Lynch, owner of eight local restaurants who was also on the panel, added that she opened several of her restaurants in the Innovation District because “I wanted to be a part of that history. I like where it’s going.”
Pictured above are Harvard Business Review’s Jeff Kehoe, Behnisch Architekten’s Martin Werminghausen, C & J Katz Studio’s Cheryl Katz, Barbara Lynch, Mayor Menino’s Chief of Staff Mitch Weiss, & Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the State of Massachusetts Greg Bialekcki
In response to an audience question on whether the Innovation District was modeled after other similar initiatives, Weiss said that this is not an emulation of anywhere else, then added that Silicon Valley is not just one location, but rather a series of regional nodes of innovation, which we already have in Massachusetts and New England.
Other questions were raised about the area’s family-friendliness, desire for a public school to be there, and the need for more public space. On the last issue, Weiss mentioned that the two recently approved development projects, Waterside Place and Seaport Square, will have public innovation centers as well as outside public space.