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Roundup 4-8-2016

April 8, 2016

Contents

Transportation – Go Hillsborough Moves On

Economic Development – Bring On the Innovators

— Long Time

— The Bottom Line

Transportation – Mobility Fees, the Editorial

Downtown/Transportation – The Park and the Question

— One More Thing

Hyde Park – How Do you Solve a Problem Like Howard?

— One More Thing

Hyde Park – The Old To Be New

Downtown – Straz, the Editorial

MacDill – The Hunters Stay, Maybe

Ybor City/Channel District – Maybe

Bayshore – One More

Airport – The Train Gets a Name

Port – Cruises to Cuba?

List of the Week

_____________________________________

Transportation – Go Hillsborough Moves On

There was news about Go Hillsborough:

After more than two years of discussions about local transportation needs, Hillsborough County commissioners are close to deciding whether to put a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Today, County Administrator Mike Merrill proposed a public hearing for April 27, followed by a vote on the tax. No commissioners objected.

Well that is something though who, other than the most extreme person, is going to object to a public hearing?

Unfortunately, it does not seem that the Commission will do anything to improve the plan with simple changes that could make it so much better.

Economic Development – Bring On the Innovators

Three was an article in the Times regarding a proposed innovation district in downtown St. Pete.  Add that to the Innovation District around USF in Tampa and, in theory, the Lightning owner’s project.

St. Petersburg decided not long ago that it wants to launch an “innovation district” — a compact, walkable piece of downtown that houses a cluster of health care, higher education, marine research and other high-powered assets.

Among those key assets hoping to collaborate are USF St. Pete, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Bayfront Health, USF College of Marine Science, SRI, U.S. Geological Survey, the Poynter Institute and other research organizations.

Mission One: Get all these brains cooking up new solutions to problems, creating products that can be commercialized and, it is hoped, generating new and good-paying jobs.

Mission Two: Brand this new “St. Petersburg Innovation District” and start marketing the heck out of it to attract talent.

There is nothing wrong with trying to maximize you assets. So what has been done?

Wisniewska and Maguire say they were approached by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, who urged the women to take those conversations to a higher level. Would they co-chair the start of an innovation district?

Why not create an “innovation district” brand, the city leaders said. Define it with specific geographic boundaries. Formalize a strategy to foster collaboration. Recruit a sharp person to run it. And then promote it as a talent hub within a city that’s already starting to get national attention as a place on the rise.

Which is interesting because you can build buildings, draw up by-laws, create a website, and do all that, but the one thing you can’t just create is actual innovation.  That is not to say that getting people together in close proximity to each other to push new ideas and cross-pollinate is a bad idea – it isn’t.  It is what you should do, but we are not sure that too much formal work will really create innovation.

— Long Time

Nevertheless, formalized innovation districts are in fashion. The Times article points to Boston as an example:

One innovation district that is very much in the national news is Boston’s South Seaport District, which recently landed the most coveted Fortune 50 corporate headquarters relocation in recent memory. GE recently said it would move from suburban Connecticut to Boston to take advantage of its more innovative culture.

Now that’s economic development. And it’s a coup for Boston’s coffers. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has cited a six-fold increase in tax revenue from the district, to $101 million this year from $16 million in 2005.

Indeed.  This is the innovation district website.  This is what it looks like (at least in part – and, as an aside, there seems to be a decent amount of underutilized waterfront):

From the Boston Globe – click on picture for gallery article

That is quite impressive. (And in many, though not all, ways similar to the Mission Bay area of San Francisco.) So, let’s look a little closer at the Boston story.  It starts quite a way back:

Mayor Kevin White moved into his office at the new City Hall in 1968. According to the late Boston College historian Thomas O’Connor, “When he looked out … down at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, they were rotten. And just beyond that, he could see the Seaport, and that was rotten, too.” White set some preliminary planning into motion, but it was Mayor Tom Menino who made development of the Seaport a priority, pushing for the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and the ICA to get built there and at one point proposing to move City Hall there, too. Just two years ago, he dubbed the area the “Innovation District” and set about creating a tech hub to rival Cambridge.

Then, they put a new Federal Courthouse there:

More than a few eyebrows were raised in 1991 when the city ­announced it was moving the federal courthouse from the heart of the Financial District to the then-desolate Seaport. But when the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse (pictured above) opened seven years later, complete with an 88-foot-tall glass wall overlooking a park and the harbor, it became an instant monument to what is possible in Boston: an architectural triumph that transformed a rundown dock into a place of vital civic importance. The Seaport was suddenly a place to conduct serious business.

Then, they spent a lot of money in infrastructure – road and rail (plus we are sure the associated bus connections):

The Big Dig may have been a financial black hole, but today’s Seaport wouldn’t exist without the $14.6 billion project: The new I-93 and I-90 interchange meant that city and suburban dwellers could reach the Seaport in just a few (relatively stress-free) minutes. Meanwhile, the Silver Line, the Big Dig’s mandated public-transit component, ensured that conventioneers, residents, and workers could easily get to and from the airport. The most important change, though, may have been psychological: By burying the dingy, elevated Central Artery — which had previously cut off the waterfront from the rest of the city — the Seaport and downtown were at last connected.

Then, they built a convention center and hotels and put the Institute of Contemporary Art nearby, making the district a location for tourists.  Then, the megadevelopments came:

In 2005, Joe Fallon, the founder, president, and CEO of powerhouse development firm the Fallon Company, bought the 21-acre Fan Pier waterfront site — at the time a parking wasteland — from Hyatt Development Corporation chairman and president Nicholas Pritzker, whose own plans had stalled over a slumping real estate market and a family feud. “I paid $115 million, a bargain,” Fallon says. “But who knew back then?” Seven years later, he’s in the middle of a vast mixed-use plan that includes not just millions of square feet of office space, but also a hotel, a marina, a park, retail space, and condos. He’s already attracted restaurants like Strega Waterfront, haute-couture haven Louis (pictured above), and Salon Mario Russo. But the biggest tenant by far is Vertex Pharmaceuticals: The company’s global headquarters — twin 18-story towers with 1.1 million square feet of research labs and office space — are under construction (pictured in the background above) and will open next year. The biotech multinational signed a 15-year lease worth $1.1 billion in 2011, joining other major corporations in the area such as Manulife Financial (John Hancock’s parent company) and Fidelity Investments.

Mind you, we still haven’t gotten to the creation of the innovation district or announcement by GE yet.

Then, and probably most importantly for “innovation”:

Fleeing rising rents in Cambridge, artists, photography studios, and tech startups began moving into rehabbed — and relatively affordable — Fort Point warehouses around 2000. Barbara Lynch rode that wave by launching restaurants Menton, Sportello, and Drink, while just a block away Joanne Chang opened an outpost of the acclaimed Flour Bakery + Café. The new residents and restaurants laid the groundwork for more employers to relocate to the area. “The momentum of the neighborhood helped us feel good about what we’re doing,” says Mike Swartz of digital design firm Upstatement. “When I’m out in Fort Point, I see people I know — it has a cool small-town feeling.”

Note where the tech startups came from – Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT.  In other words, before there was any “innovation district,” there was a district where potentially innovative companies were drawn by lower rents which was also an area in which the City had already pumped a lot of money and amenities and in which there was infrastructure to connect to the entire Boston area (not to mention being close proximity to the waterfront, downtown, Back Bay, and airport, and some other universities).  In other words, the core talent was already there and connected.

Then, more restaurants and housing came.

Finally, after all that you had the declaration of an innovation district, a simple map of which is this:

From Boston Magazine – click on map for article

— The Bottom Line

The point is not that it cannot be done here (probably on a smaller scale).  In fact, the Trop property, just like the empty area in downtown Tampa (or the area around USF in Tampa which is crying out to be redeveloped), provides much latitude to create what you need.  The point is that this area has a habit of looking at what others do and superficially copying it, hyping it, but not seeing the trumpeted results.  What Boston did takes a long time, with a lot of vision and a lot of investment, including in infrastructure (not just a few buses and some express toll lanes).  It also takes a bit of luck.  It also takes talent, which Boston has in abundance, especially young college graduates but also accomplished older adults, but the Tampa Bay area is still working to attract.

The Times article asks if St. Pete can pull it off.  Yes, it can, at least to some degree.  So can the Tampa Bay area overall.  But we can only do so if we are clear-eyed about where we now are and what it will really take – and are truly willing to persistently invest the time, effort, and money (and political capital) over a very long period to get it done, which has not been the case in past efforts in the area generally.  Whether that will happen or not is the great unknown.

Transportation – Mobility Fees, the Editorial

The Tribune ran a very good editorial regarding mobility fees in Hillsborough County. You can read the entire thing here.  We will just highlight a little.

Hillsborough County commissioners can forget about ever confronting our transportation crisis if they don’t adopt mobility fees for new developments.

The fees won’t remedy Hillsborough’s $8 billion backlog of transportation needs or eliminate the need for the comprehensive transportation plan offered by the Go Hillsborough half-cent sales tax proposal. But the fees should prevent the county from digging an even deeper transportation pit.

Yup.

Impact fees tend to encourage construction in rural areas with little traffic, and thus little initial impact. But this ultimately causes the kind of inefficient growth patterns, over time, that has made a mess of much of the county.

As Commissioner Stacy White puts it, “We can’t keep putting six homes per acre out in the middle of nowhere.”

In contrast, mobility fees are lower for developments built in areas where the county offers — or plans to offer — roads, providing an incentive for more efficient growth that requires less road construction.

Yup.

Transportation impact fees, which haven’t been increased since 1989, are woefully inadequate, ranging from $770 to $1,950 a house. Studies have found that the fees cover roughly 10 percent of the true transportation costs a house generates.

Mobility fees would encourage more responsible growth.

Indeed.  We would add that the cause of the mess has an address – the County Center.  So:

Commissioners should see that the fees make a development pay its fair share of transportation costs and also must be part of the county’s transportation strategy.

There is no argument here.  But it also must be said, as we have previously noted, that in dealing with grandfathering past credits, the County should be focused on saving taxpayers from paying for the County’s past irresponsibility.  Then again, whether the County Commission can actually do any transportation and other planning properly is still an open question.

Downtown/Transportation – The Park and the Question

This week, Perry Harvey, Sr., Park was opened next to the Encore development in downtown Tampa.   As has been amply noted, the park was designed to honor the old Central Avenue neighborhood which was the main activity center for Tampa’s African-American community for many years, until it was essentially bulldozed to make way for housing projects and I-275/I-4 in downtown Tampa.  While we had/have some issues with the design of the park, honoring the neighborhood that was destroyed is not one of them.

This week’s opening was attended by many, including the Mayor, who celebrated the honoring of the neighborhood, which is good.  But it raises a question: Why does Tampa continue to destroy neighborhoods then just celebrate them later rather than preserve those neighborhoods? (And that does not even touch the old Hillsborough County courthouse which is no longer in existence but is the seal of Hillsborough County.) This is particularly relevant regarding the TBX plan (note that 275 runs right next to Central Avenue through most of Tampa north of downtown), which will further bulldoze neighborhoods in the center of Tampa while providing no benefit to those who now live there.

— One More Thing

Which brings us to something the FDOT spokesperson said regarding the public meetings and complaints that FDOT does not care about opposition to TBX:

From FDOT’s standpoint, these community meetings are not designed to hear opposition to the project, only to get input from those affected by it and learn the type of mitigation they’d like to see to lessen its impact, said Debbie Hunt, FDOT District 7 director of transportation development.

“We’re listening to the fact that people don’t want TBX,” she said. She said FDOT has to consider the 19,000 people who live near the project, but also has to consider the millions of people who use the interstate system and how much TBX could relieve congestion.

But there is no clamor for express toll lanes.  And, note what FDOT told us last week:

“This widening study was done a decade ago, but the department realized you can’t build your way out of congestion by adding more and more lanes, especially on the Veterans because it’s very constricted. We’re not going to expand into Tampa International Airport, so we needed another solution,” Deason said.

And, you can’t solve congestion by building lanes purposely designed to not move the maximum number of cars and purposefully designed to push cars out of those lanes onto admittedly already congested lanes without providing any useful transit alternative.  And you can’t solve congestion by making the access points to those limited-utility lanes at the far end of the local traffic usage.  And you can’t solve contemporary problems based on 25 year old studies.

(Yes, the highways need improvement, but much of that can be done by drawing through traffic away from downtown (east-west Pasco road, Gandy Connector).  And much of the other improvement is in eliminating things like the bottle neck at the east end of the Howard Franklin.  We also need alternatives, which FDOT is studying with no coordination with the TBX plan.)

Nevertheless, once again, we have to point out that the real address for all this is local officials and the MPO.  TBX is only an issue because of the lack of attention to infrastructure, lack of vision, lack of planning, lack of political will, and general complacency on the part of local leaders.

That is the reason you have parks celebrating the history of neighborhoods that were bulldozed being built right next to other neighborhoods that are planned to be bulldozed rather than having a comprehensive, logical, coordinated, transportation system that can serve all those areas properly.

Hyde Park – How Do you Solve a Problem Like Howard?

For a while now, there have been issues with Howard Avenue around Hyde Park.  The essence of the problem is that Howard is a place to which people want to go and around which people want to live, but it is a narrow road with limited parking.  People living in the surrounding neighborhoods complain about bar and restaurant patrons using side streets.  So, the City is looking at it.

Parking spots in the SoHo district on a Friday or Saturday night are so scarce that valet parking is a must and help guides have popped up on the Internet.

This popularity is driven by the district’s many bars and restaurants but it has produced a rash of complaints about overflow parking on residential streets, late night noise, congestion and accidents on Howard Avenue, the hub of the district.

In response, the city is considering adding turn lanes, restriping Howard Avenue to make more room for buses to stop, and adding more crossing points and left-turn lanes. As much as $100,000 may also be earmarked for a new parking study.

The ideas are among recommendations in a new study from consultant DKS Associates into a 1.3 mile stretch of Howard Avenue between Bayshore and Kennedy boulevards.

City officials hope to adopt most of the suggestions but acknowledge that budget constraints mean some of the ideas may take years to act on. This includes restriping Howard, which likely will have to wait until the next time the road is resurfaced.

* * *

Other changes recommended in the study include more landscaping of sidewalks and a redesign of the intersection where Howard, Dekle Avenue and DeSoto Avenue meet. New signal timings at Howard and Swann avenues and Howard and Cleveland Street would help improve traffic flow, the study also says.

Ok. Improve traffic flow and make the pedestrian experience a little better (the pedestrian experience should have been improved long ago, but whatever)  Now, hold that thought for a moment.

Restriping Howard could include traffic calming measures with transit stops for buses, pedestrian crosswalks with islands halfway across the road, and narrower lanes to make drivers slow down.

“We can do better than just putting a yellow line down the middle of the road,” Duncan said. 

Ok.  Slow traffic down.  Hold that thought, too.

SoHo resident Julie McGee said she likes some of the ideas in the study but is concerned there is little that will address revelers driving through residential neighborhoods to avoid the congestion. McGee blames the city for approving too many bars in too small an area.

“We have horrible cut-through traffic,” she said. “They’re trying to avoid Howard and Swann.”

Ok. Traffic is too slow so people cut through neighborhoods.

Now, put that all together.  Fix traffic lights to have traffic move, then put in traffic calming to slow the traffic you just tried to get moving down, which will cause more congestion and push people into the surrounding neighborhood.  But, then there is too much cut through traffic so traffic has to speed up to get Howard more efficient.

In other words, the idea is to simultaneously do things for opposite purposes.  How does that actually do anything other than cost money?

Then throw in this:

Talk of a parking study may resurrect fears that the city will build a parking garage in the district, as it did in Ybor City and the Channel District.

Duncan said there are other options that a study might recommend.

That could include more parking spots on nearby collector roads, like city recently provided on Platt Street. There could also be changes to zoning regulations requiring new businesses to provide extra parking spots to obtain building permits or alcohol licenses. 

First, especially if there is no transit (and there isn’t), we are not opposed to parking garage, particularly if it is north of Platt.  At least that would put cars out of the core of the area.  On the other hand, adding more parking will around the business and nearby roads will just create more traffic and more cut-through driving.  But we are not sure any of that is optimal.

To be honest, it is not exactly clear what the actual purpose of any of the studying is.  Which goes to the real issue with Howard – the City is not clear what it wants.  Do they want a thriving urban neighborhood or do they want a quiet local street?  Because if you want an urban street, you are going to have people and, given the lack of transit, you are going to have their cars.  And if you jam their cars onto a two lane road, you are going to have people using the grid because, as URBN Tampa Bay noted:

Also, facilitating “cut-through traffic”, so that no single road is overwhelmed with travelers is exactly what an urban street grid is designed to do!

That is basic urban planning. Which makes you wonder whether, much like Seminole Heights, the people living nearby really want to live in a city or just bring suburban living closer to downtown.

What would help all this is transit, but:

The city and the Hillsborough Area Transit Authority last year proposed paying $90,000 for a pilot program to test demand for a shuttle. The plan was to run the service 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. between Howard and the Fort Brooke parking garage downtown.

But members of the SoHo Business Alliance, a group of about 40 area businesses, balked at committing to pay for the service after that, said Stephen Michelini, a consultant who represents the group.

“We were afraid if we started offering the service for free and we couldn’t’ continue, it would send the wrong message out,” he said.

* * *

Instead, the alliance has partnered with Yellow Cab of Tampa to run a privately operated shuttle service that had its soft launch last weekend, Michelini said.

The service runs along Howard and includes a loop through Hyde Park. Alliance members are still reviewing the route and will officially launch the service once they gauge the level of ridership.

That is their choice, but we doubt it will do much, except maybe move some of the overflow parking to other areas of Hyde Park. (Though we are sure lots of people are using Uber, but don’t tell the PTC.)  Without a way to bring people from farther away, you will not get rid of the congestion.  And if you jam up Howard and make it really inconvenient to get to, you will start to choke the businesses.

Which brings us back to the bigger issue: what do you really want?  If you want urban living, you have to create the infrastructure to have it – which includes paying for transit. (And we don’t just mean the businesses, we mean the residents, too.)  And if you want the benefits of living in city, you have to remember there are some downsides.

— One More Thing

Finally, the City should learn from the problem that is Howard and plan better in areas like that north of Kennedy which is seeing a lot of development (and even Westshore).  There needs to be street retail in and near the buildings being built and good sidewalks.  Give those people places within walking distance to go and let that area develop properly (and make it clear what you are doing so people who buy in know it), and you will not have the same problems.

Hyde Park – The Old To Be New

Speaking of Hyde Park,

The Boston-based owners of Hyde Park Village are moving forward with the next phase of redeveloping the property — one of the most significant changes yet to the South Tampa shopping district.

WS Development has asked the city of Tampa to determine whether its plans for Block H — the building along Snow Avenue that is home to Nature’s Table — represent a substantial change from plans originally approved for the property.

If the city’s Development Review and Compliance staff determine that the developer’s plans are not a substantial change, the proposal is not subject to a public hearing and city council approval. 

URBN Tampa Bay posted a rendering of the changes (new on top, old on the bottom)

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

That is definitely an improvement.  Given how busy Hyde Park Village was when it first came around and how popular the walkability was, it has always made us wonder why the city allowed such not walkable development between Hyde Park Village and Howard.  It was truly a lost opportunity that is still in the process of being fixed decades later.

Downtown – Straz, the Editorial

The Times also had a very good editorial, this one regarding the Straz (you can read it here), that echoes much of what we wrote last week.

The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts unveiled preliminary drawings last week of an ambitious remake of its downtown Tampa campus. The master plan includes several promising features, from creating a bold entrance to the Straz to opening its outside terrace to fuller views of the Hillsborough River. But the plans also suggest there could be some clutter and a mishmash of architecture along a riverfront that taxpayers have spent millions of dollars to open. As the concept moves to the next stage, the Straz needs to ensure that any additions to the city-owned property complement and not merely commercialize the waterfront.

How so?

The plan succeeds by looking to incorporate the Straz more fully with the river, following the lead of hotels, restaurants and bars along the Riverwalk. That would make the Straz more of a casual stop for passers-by and a more exciting backdrop to those out for a concert or a show. The changes also could sharpen the Straz’s design and make it more suitable for its semitropical setting.

The drawings, though, seem more concerned with helping Straz’s bottom line than they do with public space or aesthetics. A new events pavilion crammed near the Cass Street Bridge would do little for the public. A soaring sculpture on a platform in the river would obstruct water views and could look out of place and scale with the Straz’s gentle slope to the river. These features would also compete with the city’s overly elaborate plans to remake Riverfront Park directly opposite the Straz, squeezing boat traffic on the river and giving the entire area a patchwork feel. And the plans threaten to remove too much of what little green space exists behind the Straz, where a lawn breaks the hard look of pavers and helps keep pollution from flowing into the river.

Aside from the lawn issue, that echoes what we noted last week and we completely agree.

The Straz will do a feasibility study to explore funding sources, and any final plan will certainly revolve around money. The city should be open to contributing something to the effort to improve the public facility. The Straz is a public asset and a magnet for downtown development. Straz and city officials need to give the public ample opportunity to be involved in the remake. There is time for that. For now, the Straz has opened a welcome new era — and a healthy conversation about the look and feel of downtown.

There is also one point we did not bring up last week, but that is particularly relevant.  This is a publicly owned building.  While the announcement last week said that the alterations would be funded by donations, that is not entirely clear and they are very costly (upwards of $100 million), and we are not sure (though we are open to being convinced) the City should prioritize this upgrade over other needs. Regardless, as noted by the Times, and others, there needs to be public input on this.

MacDill – The Hunters Stay, Maybe

We have already discussed that the NOAA hurricane hunters have to leave MacDill because of space requirements for the Air Force.

Sen. Bill Nelson said in a Twitter announcement Wednesday that the famed Hurricane Hunter aircraft that are being evicted from MacDill Air Force Base “will stay in Tampa Bay.”

But Nelson did not immediately say where that would be, indicating only that the aircraft will be housed within 50 miles of MacDill.

A spokesman for Nelson could not immediately provide details.

That is good news.  We still think the Coast Guard station at St. Pete-Clearwater makes the most sense, but we’ll see where they actually end up.

Ybor City/Channel District – Maybe

It seems that the Gas Worx project between the Channel District and Ybor is in the process of being redesigned.  A rendering that apparently was originally in La Gaceta, courtesy of URBN Tampa Bay:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

While a taller building might be nice and noting that this is only a rendering and only of one aspect of the building, we like this look (except maybe the size of the sign on the roof).  We like that the grocery store is in the building and that the building is apparently up to the street.  We reserve full judgment until we see the whole thing, but we like what we see.

Bayshore – One More

The Colonnade closed and the land was sold.

The Colonnade Restaurant, a historic waterfront restaurant that has been a staple in South Tampa for more than 75 years, has been sold and the site will be redeveloped into high-rise condominiums.

A joint venture between Ascentia Development Group and Batson-Cook Development Co. purchased the property and have plans to demolish the restaurant along Bayshore Boulevard and redevelop it into waterfront luxury condos with views of downtown Tampa and the Hillsborough Bay. The restaurant closed its doors Tuesday night.

And

The proposed project is still in the planning phase, but ADG and Batson-Cook are considering “luxury waterfront condominiums with views of downtown Tampa and Hillsborough Bay.”

We’ll just have to see what happens.

Airport – The Train Gets a Name

The new train connecting the main terminal to the rental car facility now has a name: SkyConnect.    That is fine with us.  But, please, as much as we love local birds, do not wrap the train in them.

Port – Cruises to Cuba?

There was an article in the Times that asked the question: Could there be cruises to Cuba from Tampa?

Yes (but not before Miami dominates that sector as well as most others involving Cuba).

Next question.

List of the Week

There is no list this week.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2016 8:31 AM

    Boston is very different than Tampa and even there most of the groundbreaking work takes place well outside the city core. The Cambridge area is home to MIT & Harvard and the city has one of the best transit systems in the U.S. It is so good in fact that many workers get paid by their employers to leave their cars at home and take the train. The “city” has the Universities along with Akamai, Hubspot, etc. Even though these are downtown the big tech sector and innovation occurs along the Needham corridor outside the city. Why? Because it’s closer to New Hampshire where many people live due to the high tax rate in Mass and land is cheaper for big campuses. Those with families are afforded excellent public education, larger homes and proximity to the Cape. This is where innovation grows up with companies like Bose, EMC, Biogen, Raytheon, Trip Advisor, Netscout, Charles River Labs, Demandware, iROBOT, Care.com, Fleetmatics, Imprevata, Unitrends, and a long list off others.

    Boston still views itself as standing the shadow of Silicon Valley but in many ways they have done much better than they west coast rival. MIT has a 3 page agreement for licensing technology from the University and the top 2 programs are led by college dropouts because according to the University President “we want the best person for the job regardless of pedigree”. The community welcomes immigrants from around the world, they understand they have to invest to win. Most of all just like Silicon Valley, Austin, Denver, and others they focus on being unique, embracing what makes them special rather than copying someone else’s model. These communities have grown because entrepreneurs led, the did and still do forge the way, it’s not government…it’s people. If we want to be successful we have to focus on the region, not 4 blocks and entrepreneurs have to lead. In today’s roundup you mention South Howard which before Ciccio’s began redevelopment was horrid and now because of their efforts it is one of the most desirable areas in town.

    • April 8, 2016 9:26 AM

      We thought you might comment, and you did not let us down. Thank you for reading and thank you for your very useful input. To clarify our point a little, we agree with you – in hte end, it comes down to the people with the ideas. As noted, the innovation part of the Boston innovation district was created by people seeking lower rent and clustering in that area. The area was attracting innovators before there ever was an “innovation district.” The rest of the development, and what probably attracted GE to that particular part of Boston, is all the money and infrastructure pumped into that area which, with the good infrastructure can easily tap the deep talent pool and corresponing busines environment in the Boston area. We totally agree that you don’t get innovation by just creating a district. The key is people with ideas and the ability to push them. Without that, all these districts are just real estate plans. That is why attracting and retaining talent is so important. (Of course, part of that goes to how we build our area and infrastructure, but that is whole long discussion.)

      • April 8, 2016 11:40 AM

        You’re spot on, entrepreneurs saw an opportunity and went for it. It took some time but paid off with benefits along the way. That is absolutely why GE chose that location. A good friend of mine who is a business line owner told me that was the number one factor in the decision making process. Big companies look for the impact to shareholders and they have the staff to deal with the red tape which goes along with accepting government incentives. Startups don’t take government incentives for a variety of reasons including the red tape and the requirement for financial disclosures which can impact fundraising and customer acquisition.

        It is unfortunate that we often focus on ribbon cutting, how we “market” ourselves and branding versus the substance behind that. If the goal is to attract and retain innovators the focus should be on what they want which is talent, density, transit and affordable urban housing. Let’s start with the basics and we can build on that foundation.

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