District Hall is a work in progress.
It's also a gateway to Boston's new Seaport District.
But what makes the place special, more than its location, is its open-ended nature. It's an organizational and architectural question mark, asking for participation. Asking to be surprised.
- Virtually all the walls are whiteboards, painted with IdeaPaint;
- Conference and meeting rooms of all sizes (small to large) line both sides of the building;
- The center of the facility hosts comfortable chairs and scattered worktables;
- A nook at the far end of the space is reserved for pop-up enterprises;
- Free WiFi, of course;
- A coffeeshop and a bar/restaurant on site
The point of the whole place can be summed up in one word: "innovation." That's a big, woozy goal, difficult to capture and foster. But District Hall is trying to corner it, from every possible angle.
If you're skeptically inclined, you might react cynically to these trappings and programs, the ones that shout "innovation!" But think about it: What's the alternative?
And the reward if these current innovation "best practices" pay off: undeniable -- for cities, and communities, and individuals.
That's why the City of Boston helped jumpstart District Hall, and why it's maintained by CIC, the Boston-based VC-plus-workspace company, and the big real estate developers in the Seaport neighborhood.
That's also why, personally, you should be all in when it comes to "innovation" -- as a goal and an organizing principle -- to the point of being enthusiastic. There's too much potential upside to be a wet blanket.
And when you took the official Tuesday tour one rainy morning, led by Program Manager Sarah DeSimas, you get the impression that many of your fellow believers are hanging out here -- exactly the people you are looking for after a few months of trying to entice chocaholics with tech challenges.
Sarah's message: District Hall is all potential, waiting for you.
So, naturally, you immediately start hatching a project: a variation on Detour Flag Guy, and the Taza Spinning Paper Image of a Granite Grinding Stone, with a new augmented reality (AR) component.
Why add AR?
Because the Apple iPhones 8 and X had just come out, loaded with AR capabilities, and potential. Apple CEO Tim Cook had been touting AR for months before the new phones were released. And you had recently upgraded from a dying iPhone 5.
District Hall seems like a perfect location for an AR reality check.
- You start stopping by District Hall, mostly during lunch, and trying out one AR app after another; and
- You share a Google Doc in progress with Sarah DeSimas at District Hall. Working title: "The Mixed Reality Challenge."
Here's more on District Hall:
What is District Hall?
District Hall Boston is managed by Innovation Studio, Inc, a 501(3)c nonprofit organization.
The mission at District Hall is (warning: formal mission statement coming...) "to make innovation, entrepreneurship, and business ownership attainable through an empowering and inclusive network of community spaces and individualized pathways."
Communities that have traditionally been left out of the frothy world of technology innovation learn how to participate in District Hall.
District Hall is also the world’s first free-standing public innovation center. It is known as "the living room of Boston’s innovation community": a place where people can work, exchange knowledge, build meaningful relationships, and make their ideas happen.
District Hall is the result of a collaborative public-private partnership. Envisioned by the City of Boston and the Boston Planning and Development Agency in 2013, it is the central gathering space of the Innovation District, the home for Greater Boston’s innovation and entrepreneurship communities.
Most people in Boston's Innovation District (aka "The Seaport"), know District Hall for its Lounge -- DH's free, public workspace. It's ideal for entrepreneurs, tiny startup teams, freelancers, and lonely creators who just want to get the F out of their apartments. District Hall offers free WiFi, writeable walls, and flexible seating. Unlike typical co-working spaces, there is no membership model or fee to work in the District Hall Lounge.
Sometimes in the Lounge, you end up sitting next to a guy who's a little too excited about his start-up idea, judging from the way he's talking, loudly and energetically, at his Zoomed laptop. That's all part of it. That's what noise-cancelling headphones are for.
District Hall also has conference rooms of all sizes available on short notice. Startups and Fortune 500 companies take advantage of these conference rooms when they need a quick whiteboard-rich location to brainstorm.