On January 29, WS-Fenway-Twins Realty Venture LLC filed a Letter of Intent with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) to file a Project Notification Form (PNF) to redevelop various parcels near Fenway Park. The project would undergo the BPDA’s Article 80 Large Project Review process, which offers opportunities for the public to make comments and ask questions about the proposal.
The properties proposed for redevelopment include: 70 and 85 Van Ness Street, 19-23, 25-27, and 31-37 Jersey Street, 73-89, 78-88, 92, 100-102, 104-106, and 110-114 Brookline Avenue, and 45-47 and 49-67 Lansdowne St.
“These properties (along with MassDOT Turnpike Air Rights Parcel 8, for which an affiliate of the Proponent has been designated as the developer) collectively make up approximately 8 acres in the Fenway neighborhood owned or controlled by the Proponent and are all located proximate to Fenway Park,” the Letter of Intent states.
The letter goes on to say that the proposed project includes around 2.1 million square feet of space that will be used for “commercial, residential, retail, restaurant, and other uses within 8 new buildings reflecting a wide range of scales and architectural styles, and including several structures whose historic facades will be restored to preserve the unique character of Fenway’s architectural heritage.” Other improvements to the public realm are also proposed, according to the letter.
The proposed project also includes more than 30,000 square feet of public open space along Jersey Street “by permanently pedestrianizing the existing Jersey Street roadway between Van Ness Street and Brookline Avenue and creating a new year-round public gathering space along the Jersey Street frontage of Fenway Park,” the letter states, adding that doing so will “significantly enhance public pedestrian connectivity and the quality of the public experience in the area.”
The project proponent also said in the letter that the “guiding principle” for the project “is to allow the city fabric to envelop and embrace the historic ballpark and create welcoming, people-first places and buildings that contribute to the quality and vitality of the public realm in the heart of the Fenway neighborhood year-round.”
According to the BPDA, the filing of a Letter of Intent also prompts the beginning of the nomination process for an Impact Advisory Group (IAG) for a project, which consists of members of the community nominated to help with mitigation efforts in the community for a particular project.
The Sun reported in October of 2020 that Fenway Sports Group Real Estate, ’47 Brand, which is owned by the D’Angelo family, and WS Development had announced a partnership to redevelop parcels in the Fenway, and the development team had said that community input would be an important part of the process.
Several Fenway residents told the Sun that they did not feel the community was being put first, and hoped that things would turn around as the project got further underway.
In the Letter of Intent, the proponent said that it is “committed to delivering a development program that reflects and respects the unique character and history of the Fenway neighborhood, and also encourages a broad and diverse audience of visitors to enjoy these transformed settings,” and that they hope to “work closely with all interested parties in connection with the Project’s review process, including our neighbors in the Fenway community, the Impact Advisory Group, the BPDA and other city agencies, and other community stakeholders.”
Fenway resident and community activist Kristen Mobilia said that she feels the lack of a master plan for the Fenway neighborhood is really taking a toll on residents as more and more development projects get underway.
She said that she believes that money is being put ahead of people. “Residents don’t seem to matter in this whole big plan, or lack of plan,” she said.
Mobilia said that development projects are “not being looked at collectively,” and that the “city and the BPDA have dropped the ball completely.” She said that there is still no transportation plan for the neighborhood and with “increased entertainment activity” planned for the neighborhood with projects like the MGM Music Hall, there will be “more people coming to the area at all times of the year and all hours of the day.”
She continued, “We brought this up at every public meeting. Nobody does anything.”
Regarding this proposed project, Mobilia added that “residents are expecting more of the same,” but she believes the real problem is that “the whole neighborhood is not being looked at as an aggregate.”
She said that “the Red Sox have the power to make this be more of a focus. That’s what we’re asking them to do,” adding that this project is “supposed to be family friendly and bring joy to the world,” so “that falls under that umbrella.”
City Councilor Kenzie Bok also weighed in on the news, saying that “I am looking forward to hearing from the community on their vision for the area around Fenway Park as we engage with all the development partners in a serious community planning process. The size of the parcels at play in this proposal necessitate a master plan that takes into consideration all of the needs and hopes of the Fenway neighborhood and the larger Boston community — from an accessible and pedestrian-friendly public realm to housing affordability, public school and other community facilities, support for local businesses, active transportation access, and a true next-generation degree of sustainability. With a really inclusive process, this can become a transformative plan for the Fenway neighborhood.”
Mobilia said that the proposal to save historic facades as part of this project is “welcome news,” but she said she would also like to see public art both inside and outside of buildings that depicts and explains the history of the Fenway neighborhood outside of baseball. She said that there have been some “missed opportunities in the past to do so,” and now “there’s room for improvement and we welcome having a better relationship there.”
Mobilia also said that she would like to see the retail space allow for small, local businesses to operate, and other amenities for the neighborhood, such as a childcare facility or even an elementary school would be very welcome, as the neighborhood does not have its own elementary school.
“We’ve got to start thinking differently,” she said. “People care deeply about this neighborhood. This is our home, not just a playground for people at Fenway Park.”