On October 19, Fenway Sports Group Real Estate, ’47 Brand—owned by the D’Angelo family— and WS Development announced a partnership to redevelop parcels of land around Fenway Park.
According to a press release from the partners, “the new joint venture will redevelop several sites totaling approximately 5 acres within close proximity to Fenway Park, located on Jersey Street, Brookline Avenue, Van Ness Street, and Lansdowne Street while representing the historic fabric and character of the area around Fenway Park. The development review process is expected to kick off later this year.”
While many specifics have yet to be announced, …”we are thinking about residential, office space, retail, restaurants, and possibly [a] hotel, along with public art and public open space will be the type of spaces that may be included within the five acres of site area,” Yanni Tsipis of WS Development told the Sun. “Listening to the community and creating a people-first destination is paramount in our thinking,” he added.
“For 20 years, our goal has been to preserve, protect, and enhance the local and national treasure that is Fenway Park,” Fenway Sports Group Principal Owner John Henry said in a statement. “We are excited to now fully expand our focus through our partnership with WS and the D’Angelo family as we further contribute to a neighborhood that has transformed over the past two decades. Our partnership’s work in the area surrounding the ballpark will have a profound effect on the experience of Red Sox fans and all Bostonians as we create beautiful, dynamic streetscapes that complement the character and significance of Fenway Park.”
WS Development is responsible for several projects in the Seaport, including pop-up village The Current, One Seaport apartments and retail, 111 Harbor Way, and 400 Summer Street.
This announcement comes at a time when several other projects are either in the works or slated to begin shortly in the area near Fenway Park, including the Boston Arts Academy, the Scape housing project, and the proposed hotel at 1241 Boylston St., among others.
Some Fenway residents are upset with the lack of community involvement for many of these projects, including this new partnership. While many do not disagree with the need for redevelopment in certain areas of the neighborhood, they say they feel the way developers go about their proposals is what will ultimately matter.
Fenway resident Joanne McKenna told the Sun that though it’s still early, she doesn’t think the process for this proposed development is off to the right start.
“The Seaport is pretty widely recognized as a development that didn’t put creation of community or sense of place at the top of the priority list,” she said. “It’s a neighborhood that isn’t a neighborhood.”
She said it’s important that the Fenway community express what they would like to see, then evaluate how it “meshes” with the vision of the developers to create a plan that would work for the most people.
Tsipis said that “the announcement that was made is about a long-term partnership, not a project or a timeline. We are certainly eager to engage with our neighbors in the coming weeks and months,” as the process has not yet officially been kicked off.
Resident Lauren Dewey Platt said that she had received a call from the Red Sox community engagement team, who gave her a “heads up that this was coming down the pike,” she said. “That very day, it shows up in the [Boston] Globe.” She said she wishes the community had been notified earlier than the same day the paper released the information.
Fenway resident and activist Kristen Mobilia also said the Red Sox reached out to her the morning that the Globe article was published. She said that there is “a lot of activity to make it seem like they’re considerate of the residents,” but called it “false action.”
McKenna said that “this could be a great opportunity to do some real planning that is advantageous to the Red Sox and property owners and to the community,” but “all signs point to the fact that that is not going to happen.”
Dewey Platt agreed, and said that there is a “perceived engagement with the community, but it’s not real” for many of the projects that have gone through the approval process in the neighborhood.
She said that the community must work with [the developers] in a meaningful way,” as the “idea of participating in rubber stamping meetings [is] not a good use of anybody’s time,” which she said is how she felt about some other development meetings in the neighborhood.
Mobilia said she would like to see a “comprehensive, strategic plan for the neighborhood” as all of these developments continue to move forward.
“Where’s there a true transportation plan for this neighborhood? Where’s a school? I don’t see one,” she said.
The residents said that they would like to see a robust community process moving forward with this proposal. McKenna suggested a community assessment of what the strengths and weaknesses of the neighborhood are, as well as an assessment of the Fenway’s many civic groups and community organizations about what their members feel “would be the best way to approach this development.”
Questions like who would be able to afford to live or shop at the new development and what kinds of jobs will it create are ones that she thinks should be asked early on.
“I’d like to see a grassroots [effort] from the neighborhood,” Dewey Platt said, that would tell the developers what the neighborhood would like to see. “That’s not what happened in the Seaport,” she said. “It’s just a shame and it really shouldn’t be this way.”
Mobilia said she would like to see things like a daycare center in the neighborhood, as well as a post office on this side, along with more local shops. “We have one of the largest older adult populations in the city—we need things close by,” she said, instead of more “boutique” retail space that many people cannot afford to patronize.
She also said that while the Fenway Community Center is already a great space for the neighborhood, an even larger space would be beneficial for meeting the community’s needs.
“We look to our elected officials for support as we push back against this,” McKenna said. “I hope they’ll agree that a real community process is the best way to approach this.”
Mobilia added, “this project really represents a lot. Will the city finally stand up for this neighborhood?”
Mobilia and Dewy Platt said that a group of residents have been asking the Red Sox for “an enforceable neighborhood agreement” for years, according to Dewey Platt, who hails from Chicago and said that the Chicago Cubs have a neighborhood agreement with the surrounding area.
“There have to be resident voices in the planning process for our neighborhood,” Dewey Platt said. “There absolutely must be the resident perspective and it has to play a huge role in how these parcels are developed.”
Dewey Platt expressed her frustration with community processes for other projects in the neighborhood, saying that “it’s not a discussion, it’s a presentation. They tell the community what they’re going to do.”
These residents say they hope the process for this partnership will be different moving forward, and that the community will have a true stake in what gets developed on these parcels, as well as be able to work with both the developers and the city agencies responsible for the approvals.
“The idea for this partnership has been in discussion for many years and the parcels involved provide an opportunity to plan in a holistic, comprehensive, and thoughtful way, which is very important to us,” Tsipis said.
“As a Fenway resident who has watched our neighborhood, in fact, most of our city, undergo radical change with never-ceasing construction, worsening congestion and noise, skyrocketing rents and home prices, more wind and shadow even on our public parks and open space, and a seeming carte blanche to build bigger, higher and more densely than I ever thought would happen in Boston, I am of course concerned about what WS Development will propose on behalf of Fenway Sports Group and the D’Angelo family,” said Dolores Boogdanian, Fenway resident and president of the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association. “The real concern, however, is what the BRA and the Zoning Commission are going to approve.”