What to know about the new giant stairs at the Seaport

Local News

You can’t miss ’em.

The Summer Street Steps, built by WS Development that connects Summer Street to Congress Street.
The Summer Street Steps, built by WS Development that connects Summer Street to Congress Street. Courtesy of Boston Seaport by WS

What was just a surface parking lot only a few years ago has been transformed into a new pedestrian-friendly space in Boston’s Seaport district, flanked by new office buildings, retail stores, and restaurants. 

Dubbed the Summer Street Steps, the new pedestrian stairs connect Summer Street to Congress Street, at the southern edge of Harbor Way, a park leading out to Boston Harbor’s edge. 

“The entire vision for the steps is about connectivity and bringing those at BCEC (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center), South Boston, and other neighborhoods to have an organic, natural, easy, enjoyable way to access the Seaport,” said Ariel Foxman, VP of Brand and Experience at WS Development. 

Built by WS Development, which owns 33 acres of land in the Seaport, the new steps help close the 24-foot grade change between South Boston and the Seaport. 

Beforehand, getting from one side to the other was almost impossible, with only a rickety staircase at A Street going straight down from the Summer Street bridge. 

The new steps have walking paths, seating steps, and bike runnels to facilitate bikers’ access. 

“We want people to walk and amble,” said Foxman. 

Foxman said since the stairs opened at the end of May, “we’ve seen so many people discover it in such a short amount of time.”

“Eventually, the steps will take their place in the broader public consciousness, like walking down Newbury Street or the Greenway,” said Yanni Tsipis, senior vice president of Fenway and Seaport Development at WS Development.

Initial plans for the neighborhood included a vehicular road that would have gone over Congress Street. However, WS Development, whose involvement in the neighborhood began in 2007, decided to take a different approach — creating a pedestrian-friendly corridor. 

“We as a city built enough elevated highways in the 50s and 60s and then spent enough time getting rid of them,” said Tsipis. “Our first priority was avoiding an elevated roadway over Congress Street. Instead, we prioritized pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly transportation infrastructure around the neighborhood.”

On one side of the stairs is 400 Summer St., a 16-story lab building that is the new home of the biotechnology company Foundation Medicine. The building opened at the end of May and will also have 30,000 square feet of retail space. 

A little further down is 111 Harbor Way, which hosts Amazon. Alexion Pharmaceuticals, the accounting firm PwC, and the Boston Consulting Group also have offices nearby. 

One Boston Wharf Road will open later this summer or early fall. It will be a 700,000-square-foot office building with ground-floor retail. 

Over the past few years, WS Development has transformed the Seaport by building a mix of residential, hotel, office, retail, entertainment, civic and cultural uses, and public open space. 

Every year, new places are opening, such as the new F1 Arcade, the first one to come to Boston, the soon-to-come Museum of Ice Cream, and new bakeries and restaurants, such as the Korean-American-themed Nowon, and even a treat boutique for dogs, Polkadog bakery.

“The Seaport is still very much a work in progress and will be for many years to come,” Tsipis said. 

WS Development’s first building was the Envoy Hotel at 70 Sleeper St., which began construction in 2013 and opened in the summer of 2015. 

Out of the 19 buildings in the master plan, five remain left to build: three commercial and two residential buildings, and other public spaces. 

WS Development are long-term owners, said Tsipis. 

“We are very bullish on Boston,” said Tsipis. “We love Boston and are very aspirational about our work in the Seaport.”

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