Editorial by Globe Staff, 04/04/00
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was on target when he urged the Red Sox to
recruit private landowners near Fenway Park as partners in the proposal to
build a new stadium. A cooperative venture would produce greater benefits for
the Fenway neighborhood. The mayor ought to use this same line of reasoning to
encourage landowners on the waterfront to work together.
Yet the mayor opposes the co-development offer made by Frank McCourt to the
Pritzker family, which owns the Fan Pier parcel opposite McCourt's land on old
Northern Avenue. One great difference is that, while the Pritzkers would
obtain private money, the Red Sox want the city and state to contribute to
financing a new ballpark, and a cooperative venture would reduce the city's
The city has a keen interest in ensuring that development brings out the
best in both the Fenway and waterfront districts, no matter who comes up with
the money. In both cases, planning is made difficult by the presence of
multiple land owners.
The mayor is right that the city should minimize its contribution to a new
ballpark. Most of the direct profit would accrue to the Red Sox. Beyond that,
the project is bound to greatly affect the neighborhood. If planned as part of
a joint development initiative, under the guidance of the Boston Redevelopment
Authority, a new ballpark could increase economic activity while enhancing the
livability of the Fenway-Kenmore Square area.
The waterfront poses a different opportunity for city officials because
most of it is unoccupied land. The build-out ought to be planned in a unified
way so that each private development enhances the other. The Red Sox want to
go it alone, despite Menino's urgings. The team must show the mayor that it
will minimize the city's financial exposure.
Likewise, if the Pritzkers refuse to take up McCourt's offer, they ought to
revise their plan so that it better fulfills the state regulatory mandate for
ample public access to the water's edge. It should also fit in with whatever
McCourt can reasonably expect to do with his property. When developers refuse
to cooperate, government officials have an obligation to make sure their
projects adhere to a unified vision that puts the public interest first.