For Boston’s latest retail development, The Superette, the developer’s vision is to create a haven from the hubbub of the city.
“You have to start with the place. What makes the Superette distinct is that it’s in the middle of the most bustling, exciting part of the city, in the heart of the Seaport. But it’s tucked away, almost like a hidden garden experience,” said Samantha David, president of WS Development, during an interview.
There’s a sense of surprise and relief, said David, as people go from a very dense urban environment to another that feels “cozy and soulful.”
The two-level, 125,000-square-foot Superette, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, occupies the first two levels of the three towers that make up the Echelon luxury residences, and will contain more than 40 retail tenants including a few restaurants situated around the perimeter of a rectangle courtyard with umbrella-shaded bistro tables and seating. The Superette is scheduled to open spring 2022, though no precise date has been set yet.
Among the leases signed are Le Labo, Daniel Cremieux, Lucid, Lunya, Vince, Framebridge, Mack Weldon, Injeanius, Rag & Bone, The Garret Bars, Todd Snyder, LimeRed Teahouse, Puttshack and Scotch & Soda, and many more are expected to follow. “We are under negotiation for every space,” said David. “A few spaces are still up in the air,” she said.
“The name Superette speaks to the vision behind this project. It’s a nod to a bodega, a place to go where you can buy a lot of things that you need in a tiny little matchbox of a store. Similarly, Superette brings together everything you need and can enjoy — pajamas, cosmetics, jeans, underwear, even a car. There’s an entire spectrum,” said David, referencing Lucid’s plan to open a two-level showroom for its luxury cars. The setting, David suggested, is just as conducive for a cup of coffee or to read a book, or to buy a pair of jeans, or shoes, or something way more luxurious, like a fancy car.
“A lot of streets today have really become one note. Madison is one note. Newbury is one note. Superette will have a varied and quirky mix. People are not one note,” said David.
Superette’s central courtyard will be “activated” with art exhibits, performances, fitness classes, book clubs, lectures and other events. “The ability to have this common space is really a canvas to paint all these activations. We have a dedicated marketing team of 10 people in the Seaport focused on activations.”
She said the architecture of the project incorporates plenty of limestone and solid masonry. “That gives it warmth and coziness and evokes a European sensibility that is timeless, not trendy. It isn’t like so many other developments which are very glassy and cold and of the moment.” She noted that The Superette is being built on a former parking lot but that it will contain underground parking.
“The Superette aspires to inject a little bit of fun and a whole lot of imagination into the current retail experience,” said David.
WS Development, a large, privately owned firm based in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and established in 1990, is a vertically integrated company that conceptualizes, owns, operates and leases more than 100 properties ranging from “cutting-edge” urban spaces to lifestyle and community centers and big mixed-use projects. The company has developed over 20 million square feet of space and has an additional five million square feet under development.
After languishing for decades as a wasteland of parking lots, wharfs and fishing docks, the Boston Seaport, situated on the south side of the city and across the Boston Harbour from Logan Airport, has been undergoing a multiyear transformation. The roughly 1,000-acre section of waterfront, bounded by the Fort Point Channel and the Reserved Channel, was underwater until the late 1800s, when it was filled and used for shipping.
Within the Boston Seaport district, situated off Boston Harbor, WS Development owns and is developing 33 acres of waterfront land, amounting to 7 million square feet covering 20 city blocks. It’s Boston’s single largest development project and incorporates a mix of residential, hotel, office, retail, entertainment, civic and cultural uses, and public open space.
While The Superette is a significant and unique component to date, WS Development has opened 300,000 square feet of retail in the Seaport district, including Everlane, L.L. Bean, Bonobos, Filson, Warby Parker, CVS, Lululemon, an Equinox health club and Trader Joe’s, and plans to add another 650,000 square feet over the next five years. The development includes office, residential, hotel and entertainment as well as retail, and will be home to the Boston headquarters of Amazon, scheduled for a January 2022 opening, among other tenants.
Also within WS Development’s property in the Seaport is The Current, which is a setting for a revolving set of nine or so contiguous pop-ups, each selling different products yet tied together by a common theme, mission or narrative, giving the businesses a dimension beyond the product offering. The Current hosts a new set of pop-ups every six months, with a different theme each time. The first iteration was called the She-Village at The Current, and it contained female-founded and female-run businesses conveying empowerment. Some of the pop-ups that have appeared in the The Current morphed into permanent stores at the Seaport such as Lunya and Injeanius.
WS Development also owns the The Royal Poinciana in Palm Beach, Fla. It has a European flavor and a leisurely setting marked by courtyards, outdoor furniture, fountains, palm trees and gardens. The property, which was restored to its original midcentury style, is programmed to encourage visitors to spend much of their day there, with a mix of luxury retail, fashion, dining and entertainment.
“For all of these projects, at the end of when you walk through, does it make you feel really special? We are obsessed with details, creating parks and courtyards, and all of the little moments that make you want to return. It’s very difficult to do that,” said David.