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Ballpark plan spurs ideas for development

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 01/13/00

As the Boston Red Sox continue to polish their pitch for public investment in the team's proposed $600 million ballpark project, local developers and city officials are looking for ways to profit from the hike in property values expected to accompany construction of a new Fenway Park.

On one end of the proposed new 44,000-seat ballpark, Boston developer Steve Samuels is quietly talking with local community groups about a possible mixed-use development project including a 200-room hotel, an apartment complex, and up to 70,000 square feet of retail space.

At the other end of the new ballpark, closer to Kenmore Square, city officials are eyeing a variety of development schemes for the five-acre parcel that would be left over after 88-year-old Fenway Park is demolished.

One tentative scheme envisions that in five years, after the new ballpark is built, the current outfield of Fenway Park will be redeveloped into a new hotel, retail space, restau-

rants, and office and research space.

It's unclear who would develop the valuable property, but yesterday team officials insisted it won't be the Red Sox.

"We are not looking to become hotel developers or anything like that," Red Sox vice president James Healey said. "We've always said that the land we own is an asset we expect to contribute in one way or another toward the cost of the new ballpark. . . . But we won't be developing it ourselves. That's not what we do."

The team's development adviser, former Boston Redevelopment Authority director Robert Walsh, a close friend of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, also ruled out being a part of a development team for the site.

"That's not my role," Walsh said yesterday. "My responsibility is to help the Red Sox with their new ballpark plan, not to develop something else on the side."

With the Red Sox opting out of the commercial development game, city officials are weighing a host of options, ranging from acquiring the five-acre parcel and selling it to commercial developers to having the city develop the property, possibly with partners. Another option is to arrange a land swap with one or two of the major landowners on the proposed ballpark site, one source said.

In any case, city officials hope that development on the site will generate revenue needed to acquire the 14-acre site adjacent to Fenway Park where the new ballpark is slated to be built.

When the Red Sox first unveiled their plan last spring, team officials estimated it would cost about $65 million to acquire the new ballpark site. However, without new partnerships or land swaps, some development specialists believe land acquisition costs for the project could top $100 million.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the proposed new ballpark, across from the new Landmark Center, Samuels is hoping to build a mixed-use development that could cost up to $100 million.

Samuels, best known for his South Bay Center in Dorchester, declined to discuss his project yesterday. He stressed he is seeking input from community groups before he completes his development plans. Several Fenway groups contacted yesterday expressed preliminary support for his project.

About one acre of Samuels' property is slated to be used for the new ballpark - including the new home plate. But Samuels' current plans call for construction only on the two acres beyond the walls of the proposed ballpark. He and the Red Sox are in talks about the one-acre overlap, and both sides are hopeful a deal can be reached, sources said.

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