More than a century after the first batter approached home plate at Fenway Park, the blocks immediately surrounding Boston’s historic ballpark are set for major changes.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency board on Thursday approved Fenway Corners, a $1.6 billion mixed-use project that will bring offices, labs, apartments, a slew of retailers, and street-level upgrades along Jersey Street, Brookline Avenue, and Van Ness Street.
The BPDA board approved the project’s first 1.6 million square feet, with an additional 500,000 square feet slated for a later board vote following the completion of the Fenway-Kenmore Transportation Action Plan.
The project’s eight buildings are slated to range in height from two to 19 stories — anywhere from 40 feet to 265 feet — and feature nearly 730,000 square feet of lab space and close to 500,000 square feet of office. The project will also include 266 residential units, some 53 of which will be set aside as affordable, along with a host of new storefronts and street upgrades.
The project’s development team is a joint venture of WS Development, the Fenway Sports Group, and Twins Enterprises. John Henry, owner of the Boston Globe, is the principal owner of Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Twins Enterprises is owned by the D’Angelo family, which has owned and operated retail and souvenir shops adjacent to the park for nearly 80 years.
“This place will feel welcoming to all, and unapologetically pedestrian-oriented,” said WS Development’s Yanni Tsipis at Thursday’s meeting. “Fenway Park is one of the great icons of our city — one of the places that all Bostonians can be proud of. So why not make its front door the welcoming and diverse place that it should be all year round, in service to the whole city?”
The project will upgrade or create nearly five acres of public space, including a pedestrian plaza along Jersey Street — which closes to vehicular traffic on Red Sox game days but is open at other times — along with turning a gritty service alley off Jersey Street into a pedestrian promenade with shops and restaurants and improving David Ortiz Drive, where many pedestrians enter the neighborhood from the Lansdowne Commuter Rail Station.
“One of our guiding principles for the project is to embrace the pre-existing grit and grain of this area,” Tsipis said. “This project is certainly about transformation and change, but we also feel a really deep responsibility to protect and preserve the best of what makes Boston, Boston.”
The Fenway Corners developers have committed to restoring the city-owned historic “Duck House” on nearby Agassiz Road, which has been vacant for close to four decades, and pledged to include a 100-seat day-care facility in the project.
At a public hearing before the vote, a number of neighborhood groups and community members spoke in support of the project, including The Fenway Alliance, the Fenway Community Development Corp., the Fenway Community Center, the manager of the multi-business building at 61 Brookline Ave. and leaders from several local construction unions.
Some, such as Dolores Boogdanian, president of the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association, expressed concern over building heights and said an approval would be “premature” without a full transportation study completed.
BPDA board member Ted Landsmark commended WS Development for a “thoughtful and inclusive process that has brought together folks from various communities throughout the Fenway.”
“They put forward a very thoughtful conclusion here to deal with those sections of the neighborhood that could certainly use some improvements,” Landsmark said. Board member Brian Miller said the project would be “transformative” and “really benefit all of the neighbors, and the city as a whole.”