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Fenway facelift continues

A proposed complex on Boylston Street would mix housing, retail, further contributing to a neighborhood’s transformation

A developer’s proposal to build a mixed-use complex on Boylston Street would continue the transformation of the Fenway area. A developer’s proposal to build a mixed-use complex on Boylston Street would continue the transformation of the Fenway area. (Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe)
By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / July 7, 2011

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Fenway Park may remain a fixture in time, but the neighborhood around it is finally completing its transformation to the modern world.

The sub shops, fast food outlets, and gas stations that used to dominate the outer stretch of Boylston Street around the ballpark have given way to sleek buildings, stylish restaurants, and a lively club scene.

And now a new addition to the neighborhood: Boston developer the Abbey Group yesterday proposed construction of a mixed-use complex that would replace a former McDonald’s with 210 apartments, offices, and retail stores.

In a filing submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Abbey Group executives proposed a tiered complex that would be set back from Boylston Street, leaving room at street level for outdoor cafe tables and a small courtyard. The development, to be located at 1282 Boylston St. next to the Baseball Tavern, would be 16 stories at its peak and step down to four stories on the rear side facing the residential portion of the neighborhood.

“We’re trying to create a building that fits with the urban village objective and really targets a multigenerational group of people,’’ said David Epstein, president of Abbey Group. “We want to shape the building with varied heights and varied openings so it will present itself in a more pedestrian-friendly way.’’

The site has been used for parking since McDonald’s closed in 2009. Abbey Group, which acquired it two years ago, hopes to begin construction next year, with an opening planned in 2014.

The apartments would range from studios to three-bedroom units, with about 20 units to be designated as affordable. Three floors of offices would occupy the lower levels of the building with stores and community space at street level. Epstein said the firm wants to incorporate a cafe or restaurant and several other shops, as well as an underground parking garage with 295 spaces. The complex is being designed by the architecture firm Bruner/Cott & Associates.

The project still needs approvals from the BRA, which has instituted zoning changes in recent years to encourage development in the area. The proposal for the McDonald’s site would fill one of the few remaining gaps along Boylston Street, which until recently has been dominated by a ramshackle collection of tire stores, sub shops, and gas stations.

Among the new developments are Trilogy, an apartment and retail complex at the corner of Brookline Avenue and Boylston Street, and 1330 Boylston, another large housing complex with an Upper Crust Pizzeria and Basho Japanese Brasserie on the ground floor. Also new to the neighborhood are Guitar Center, Tasty Burger, and Marshall’s Fenway Farm Stand, a market featuring locally grown foods.

Abbey Group was among the first developers to start the neighborhood’s renaissance in the early 1990s, when it developed Landmark Center, a 1-million-square-foot office and retail complex at Park Drive and Brookline Avenue. It sold the complex last year to developer Steve Samuels, who has also redeveloped several properties in the area.

Epstein said the firm is still refining its design for the McDonald’s site and remains open to input from neighbors. The current plan calls for a mix of terra-cotta and other light-colored materials meant to reflect many of the older homes and commercial buildings in the area.

Abbey Group is also planning a community center for meetings and other public events and is proposing several changes to accommodate additional traffic created by the project. Among the changes are a dedicated truck lane along the complex and a new side street from Boylston that would connect to alleys behind the building.

In its filing with the city, the firm estimated the project will create 600 construction jobs, and 360 permanent jobs once it opens.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.