Fenway Theatre Development Team Details Latest Design Plans and Proposed Community Benefits for IAG

The development team behind the proposed Fenway Theatre detailed its latest deign plans and proposed community benefits during an Impact Advisory Group meeting Monday at the Ford Clubhouse at Fenway Park.

The developer, 175 Ipswich Street, LLC, proposes building an approximately 91,500 square-foot performing arts center, with capacity for approximately 5,400 patrons, adjacent to the ballpark at Lansdowne and Ipswich streets. The new venue would be a joint venture between the Red Sox organization and the operators of the adjacent House of Blues.

Construction is expected to take place in three phases, said David Friedman, senior vice president, of legal and government affairs for the Red Sox and special consul for the Red Sox Foundation.

The first phase, which is expected to run from the end of the current baseball season in October until the start of the next one in April of 2020, would entail decommissioning the existing building and demolition and foundation work. The second phase, slated to kick off this time next year, would call for the interior reconstruction of the third and fourth levels of the Fenway Garage, which will link the new venue to the ballpark. The thirds phase would then entail construction of the theatre itself.

Friedman said Gilbane Inc., a Providence-R.I.-based construction and real estate company, has been selected as the project contractor, and that limited construction work would take place in the evening and on weekends, especially during the baseball off-season.

In response to feedback from the city and the Boston Landmarks Commission, architect Chuck Izzo said the existing façade of the existing garage would be retained, and the area where the theatre’s sidewalk meets the garage façade would be set back “for more breathing room.”

Also, Izzo said the number of bleacher seats slated for removal to accommodate new food areas, concessions and gathering spaces has been reduced from 290 (the last six rows) to 140 (the last three rows).

Ruth Bonsignore, project consultant, said the sidewalks on Lansdowne Street would be extended to 24 feet, resulting in the loss of seven parking spaces, while the sidewalks on Ipswich Street would be widened to 20 feet.

More trees will be planted along Ipswich Street while existing trees would be retained along Lansdowne Street, Bonsignore said, and the density of bollards would be reduced.

Bike lanes, measuring 5 feet wide, would be extended on both sides of Lansdowne Street, Bonsignore said.

Meanwhile, the stop for the MBTA’s 55 bus line would be relocated from its current site, and a new bus shelter would be installed at the new location. The develop team has also committed to underwriting a study of proposed enhancements to the bus line. “The MBTA said they would consider our recommendations based on their merit,” Bonsignore said.

As the city and the Red Sox organization continue to evaluate the success of a pilot program that designated two pick-up and drop-off spots around the ballpark for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, Bonsignore said space in front of the Boston Arts Academy and another site on David Ortiz Drive in front of the Lansdowne MBTA station are now also being considered as possible locations for additional pick-up and drop-off spots.

Bonsignore said the development team was unable to accommodate the city’s request to move the ballpark’s loading dock away from Ipswich Street because Lansdowne Street is too narrow; instead, the loading dock would be expanded from its existing two bays to five.

Moreover, the city is now considering making Van Ness Street one-way between Ipswich and Jersey streets.

“This would likely alleviate delivery activity at the loading dock, although there’s no commitment [from the city],” Bonsignore said. “We would be supportive of [the proposal] if the city decides that’s an optimal solution.”

In outlining the proposed community benefits from the project, Friedman said the development team is taking a five-pronged approach to achieving this goal.

The first tack would focus on partnerships with Boston Arts Academy and includes a $500,000 over five years commitment to the school’s capital, as well as providing job and internships opportunities and access to the building itself, Friedman said.

The development team would also seek to foster partnerships with other nearby institutions, such as the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music.

Another benefit category would focus on community access, and Friedman said there are tentative plans to offer neighbors discounted tickets for events at the theatre in a manner similar to the Neighborhood 9’s program, which allows residents in zip codes surrounding the ballpark the opportunity to purchase up to four tickets each for $9 a piece plus processing fees for up for five regular season games. Space at the theatre would also be made available to local nonprofits for fundraisers and other events.

Moreover, Freidman said the development team intends to establish an annual visual arts exhibition at the ballpark or in the theatre itself to display works by local talent.

The theatre would also create around 80 full-time jobs and 40 part-time jobs, which would offer competitive wages and give preference to qualified local residents.

The development team would also seek to make financial and other contributions to the community “on the same level as the Red Sox organization,” Freidman said.

The Fenway Theatre IAG, which advises the Boston Planning and Development Agency in both identifying the impacts and determining the appropriate mitigation for the proposed project, includes Thomas Bakalars, Sonya Bhabhalia, Kelly Brilliant, Molly Chase, Panos Demeter, Laura Fogg, Kristen Mobilia, Michael Nichols and Evan Ramsey. Tim Czerwienski is thid BHPA project manager for the application.

The BHPA is accepting public comments on the Draft Project Impact Report until July 29. For more information on this project and to submit comments, visit http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/fenway-theater.

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