The Boston Phoenix
August 10 - 17, 2000

[This Just In]


Field of dreams

by Ben Geman

Philip Bess Activists fighting the Boston Red Sox' $665 million ballpark scheme have launched a new effort to create viable plans for preserving or rebuilding Fenway Park on its current site -- and creating a better neighborhood at the same time.

Last Saturday morning, the Fenway Community Development Corporation (CDC) and Save Fenway Park formally kicked off "The Future Fenway: A Design Symposium." The week-long event brings together design and architecture professionals with community residents to make what in effect would be counteroffers to the team's controversial plans for a bigger park between Boylston Street and Brookline Avenue.

Advocates say their goal is neighborhood planning that incorporates a new ballpark into the CDC's "urban village" vision, which includes new business, office space, and mixed-income housing along Boylston Street, as well as a new school and community center. The CDC says the Red Sox' current plan would, among other problems, hinder that vision.

Leading the symposium is Philip Bess, who specializes in planning urban ballparks that mesh with neighborhood character. The architect is now working with the Florida Marlins on their plans for a new park. Speaking at the kickoff event at the Morville House senior center on Saturday, Bess said that the symposium would aim for a "different and better paradigm" of parks that enhance neighborhoods. "Our proposals will be noticeably and viscerally more intimate than what the Red Sox are proposing," he said. The symposium wraps up on Sunday; at 3 p.m. this Saturday, August 12, planners will present what they've come up with at the Morville House, which is located at 100 Norway Street in the East Fenway.

Although the symposium has been in the works for months, planners hope its timing helps city councilors who oppose the Red Sox' ballpark plan. That scheme would require significant public investment and would displace several businesses, including the Boston Phoenix. Now that state legislators have approved the plan, which Mayor Tom Menino supports, opponents hope that councilors will scuttle the deal. Save Fenway Park board member Erika Tarlin says that the councilors, who must agree to city borrowing to acquire private property for the park, could use the symposium's results to buffer their opposition. "It would be wonderful if city councilors can say there are alternatives to investigate, and here's one of them," she said last Saturday.

Indeed, opponents of the plan say it's important that their activism go beyond simply saying no to the current Sox proposal. State Representative Byron Rushing noted in remarks last Saturday that the neighborhood "must say what we want and what can work in this neighborhood." Similarly, Fenway CDC executive director Carl Koechlin says planners want to come up with an idea that's financially feasible for the team as well as palatable to the neighborhood -- even if that means a new park that's bigger than the current Fenway Park, but smaller than the Sox' proposal.

"It does not serve anyone's purpose to come up with a plan that does not in any way address the Red Sox' needs," he says. "If we can come up with something less expensive, the Red Sox can meet their needs with fewer seats."