The city’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Fenway Corners met virtually on Tuesday, May 23, for the first time in about a year to discuss the latest iteration of and changes to the project.
WS-Fenway-Twins Realty Venture LLC – a partnership made up of the Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Red Sox; the D’Angelo family, who own the 47 sports apparel and memorabilia company; and Newton-based WS Development, which led the redevelopment effort in the Seaport – intend to redevelop 13 parcels located south of the Massachusetts Turnpike near Fenway Park on four major blocks along Jersey Street, Brookline Avenue, Van Ness Street, and Lansdowne Street, respectively, which collectively total around 5.32 acres.
Yanni Tsipis, senior vice president of WS Development, said the project-use mix and program changes from what the CAC last saw about a year ago at the group’s fourth meeting include the reduction of 50,000 square feet of commercial uses; the elimination of 8,000 square feet of retail to provide more public space; the addition of 50 more residential unit to bring the total to 266 units (including 53 affordable units) on site; an increase in affordable housing from 13 percent to 20 percent on site; a four-fold increase in civic space, bringing it to 10,000 square feet; a reduction in the project’s Gross Floor Area (GFA) of current project approvals by 460,000 square feet to align with the currently allowed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 7.0; and the creation of the Fenway Family Center, a daycare/early childhood ed center that could accommodate 100 children.
Tsipis said the intent for the proposed Fenway Family Center is to give preference to people living and working in the neighborhood, but this would ultimately hinge on the selected operator and what they can provide in this regard.
The project would also allocate $13.5 million for area-wide transportation improvements ($6.50 per square foot); extend the Richard B. Ross Way from Van Ness Street to Brookline Avenue and create a Ross Way bike hub with valet service available on non-game days; and create .75 miles of new bike lanes and roadway improvements, said Tsipis.
Additionally, the developer has committed to deferring around 460,000 square feet of development until after the completion of the Fenway-Kenmore Transportation Action Plan, said Tsipis, to take into account its findings.
The developer has also committed to advocating that the $23 in Housing Linkage funds from the project be used to the Fenway, and to work with the Fenway CDC (Community Development Corporation) and other stakeholders to achieve this goal, said Tsipis, while also pledging that payment of these funds would be accelerated, rather than paid over seven years (which would amount to an additional $5.4 million in NPV [Net Present Value]).
As another project amenity, the developer has also now committed to completely funding the restoration and renovation of the city-owned Duck House “into a proper public facility,” said Tsipis.
Moreover, the project will “pedestrianize” Jersey Street, as well as create additional access points to the second level of the public space overlooking Jersey Street at the Jersey Street Porch, added Tsipis, The developer has also committed to leasing the food-and-beverage space at the Jersey Street Stoop to a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) operator at a below-market rate, he said.
The developer has also pledged to dedicate the majority of its $1 million budget for public-art installations to local and Boston-area artists, said Tsipis, as well as to work with the city and community organizations “to build job pipeline and pathway programs” including for jobs in the life-sciences field.
CAC members on hand for the meeting largely praised how far the project has evolved, since the public process began more than two years ago.
Still, the creation of new parking (about 1,740 spaces scattered throughout the site) concerned several CAC members, but Tsipis assured them that the new parking would likely be welcomed particularly by business around Kenmore Square, where parking is in short supply.
Likewise, CAC member Pam Beale said new parking is also essential for the ”neighborhood to thrive and grow,” especially in light of sometimes unpredictable MBTA service to the Fenway and Kenmore area.
The next steps for the project are a public meeting sponsored virtually by the Boston Planning & Development Agency on June 12, said Michael Sinatra, senior project manager for the BPDA, while the public comment period for the project is open through June 23. Public comments can be left on the BPDA’s project page at http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/fenway-corners, or submitted to Sinatra directly via email at [email protected].
The project is then targeted to go to the BPDA board for a vote in July, said Sinatra, and if it’s approved, the matter would then likely go to the Zoning Board of Appeal in August for final approvals.