Fenway foes propose 'urban village'
By Michael Jonas, Globe Correspondent, 03/19/00
While the Red Sox are dragging their feet on releasing details of a
financing scheme for their proposed new ballpark, opponents of the plan are
stepping up to the plate with their own vision for renewal of the area.
Led by the Fenway Community Development Corporation, a coalition of Fenway
residents and groups is kicking off a campaign to revive the concept of an
"urban village" along Boylston Street, a plan first conceived during the early
The coalition, slated to hold its first public meeting yesterday, wants to
see a mix of ground-floor retail uses and mixed-income housing development
along Boylston Street, a busy artery now dominated by surface parking lots and
fast food outlets. The plans for a new 44,000-seat stadium, however, would
position one wall of the ballpark directly along Boylston Street, a design
many residents say collides head on with the urban village vision and efforts
to improve the quality of residential life in the Fenway.
Mayor Tom Menino has been a big backer of a new stadium in the Fenway, but
he's also made revival of neighborhood business districts a centerpiece of his
administration. In a speech last month to the Boston Municipal Research
Bureau, Menino called the new ballpark plan an "opportunity to rebuild the
Boylston Street corridor" and to "get rid of the surface parking on Boylston
Street in favor of a `Main Street' environment, with infill housing for the
His have-it-both-ways view may be a tough sell.
"The ballpark and Main Street don't go together," said Carl Koechlin,
director of the Fenway CDC. "It's hard to have life on just one side of the
Leaders of the new urban village coalition concede they have more of a
vision than a blueprint at this point.
"But it's a way of getting people to think about what might be possible as
opposed to just accepting whatever might get dished out," said Koechlin.
Rep. primary race in high gear
I t may be a half-year until the Sept. 19 state primary, but you'd never
know it in Brookline. School Committee vice chairman Frank Smizik, who is
challenging freshman state Representative Ronny Sydney in the Democratic
primary, had a full legion of campaign workers at the polls earlier this month
when residents went to cast ballots in the presidential primary.
More than 50 volunteers distributed "palm cards" outlining Smizik's
decidedly liberal agenda, including support for public education, universal
health care, early childhood programs, and rules reform to "challenge the
conservative legislative leadership."
Meanwhile, Sydney is planning a March 26 campaign kickoff, with Congressman
Barney Frank scheduled as a special guest speaker. However, the quick-witted
congressman now says he was caught a bit flat-footed in accepting the
invitation. Unless there's "some overriding ideological issue," said Frank, he
generally doesn't endorse candidates in primaries, and this one is no
exception. Frank plans to make good on his commitment to the Sydney campaign
event, but to even the score he's told Smizik he'll make an appearance at an
event for him as well. Smizik's campaign kickoff is scheduled for March 29.
Still standing in the wings is former representative John Businger, who
says he's considering a comeback attempt. Two years ago, Sydney defeated
Businger by 35 votes. Smizik already has the support of some former Businger
loyalists, however, and Businger's entry into the race would likely only work
to Sydney's advantage.