Note: a separate walking tour provides a structured overview of this area and the Fort Point Channel neighborhood.
The new Seaport - or Innovation - district is all about big, and fast. After the Big Dig was completed in 2008, extending Interstate 90 through this area to Logan Airport and adding a new harbor tunnel, this formerly barren 51 acres on the waterfront became the largest urban redevelopment in the country.
Construction followed the suburban financial model; developers were given the responsibility for streets, utilities, and open space to support over 10 million square feet of new construction. The resulting monster buildings on superblocks attract big new corporate and professional tenants and even pulled in some tech companies that otherwise might have landed in Kendall Square in Cambridge, but if you turn away from the harbor there's little to remind you you're in Boston.
Fortunately, some diversity and charm still be found around this explosion of new buildings. Commonwealth Pier (now the Boston World Trade Center), the Fish Pier and the U.S. Army warehouse (now the Innovation & Design Building) were mega-projects in the early 1900s, and remain in use today. The 2006 Institute of Contemporary Art provides a unique refuge for reflection. A circus tent, a concert venue, the Harpoon Brewery, the drydock, the cruise terminal, and an active fleet of fishing boats all retain some local character. The old Fort Point warehouses are well-preserved and well-used.
South Boston was annexed to Boston in 1804 but only a ferry crossed Fort Point Channel until 1899. Irish dock and factory workers settled in the residential neighborhood that remains to the south of the booming Seaport district, giving “Southie” its famous ethnic character. In Southie, with its concentration of triple-deckers and local accents still surviving gentrification, there's no forgetting you're in Boston.