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Menino to urge Fenway area redevelopment

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 02/08/00

The Boston Red Sox want a new home, but according to Mayor Thomas M. Menino, their neighborhood needs much more than just a new Fenway Park.

A key champion of the baseball team's proposed $600 million ballpark project, Menino said yesterday that he also will press for redevelopment of the entire Fenway area, using a combination of private investment and city, state, and federal funds.

Menino wants to increase park space and reduce the height of the proposed $1.2 billion Fan Pier complex. B2.

The area, now littered with surface parking lots and a hodgepodge of development, with 88-year-old Fenway Park at its heart, needs major infrastructure improvements, enhanced open space, and a redesign of the Boylston Street corridor, Menino said.

"There are longstanding problems in that area that affect neighborhood residents, the hospitals, schools, businesses, and others traveling through there every day," Menino said in an interview yesterday. "What we need are solutions that improve things 365 days a year, not just the 81 days that baseball is being played there," he said.

Menino is due to outline his development ideas, including proposals now under review for the Fenway, Fan Pier, and the Central Artery projects, in a speech to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau today.

Menino's speech and continued strong support for the Fenway project are likely to re-energize talks about the new ballpark.

Although team officials have been meeting with state and city officials and neighborhood groups for months, the Red Sox has not announced how it intends to finance the project - or how much public investment will be needed.

Several Fenway groups praised the mayor's call for transportation and traffic improvements, additional middle-class housing and a redesigned Boylston Street. But large-scale redevelopment in the Fenway area is likely to be controversial.

And while Menino supports using the new ballpark as a springboard for redeveloping the Fenway area with new hotels, shops, housing and office space, the Red Sox recently ruled out directly investing in any nonballpark-related projects.

"We applaud the mayor for speaking on behalf of the urban village concept with low-scale housing and retail space on Boylston Street," Lisa Soli, president of the Fenway Community Development Corp., said yesterday. "However, we do have some reservations about the Fenway Park proposal because it doesn't fit with what we think should be built there."

Others argued that a major redesign of the area is long overdue. "Not everyone is going to agree on what should be built on Boylston Street, but everyone agrees it needs to be improved," said Pam Beale of the Kenmore Business Association.

Menino also insists the city needs to recoup funds used to acquire the 14-acre site where the Red Sox propose to build their new ballpark.

"If the city has to finance a part of the project to get it done, then city taxpayers deserve a share of the return," he said in an advance copy of his speech obtained by The Boston Globe.

"I can't tell you what form that will take, but I can tell you this: The financing will be complex and the city is treading carefully," he added.

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