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Baseball stadium proposed for Malden

National Grid leaving key parcel

By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / December 1, 2011
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A Boston group that for years has been scouting sites for a 6,500-seat minor league baseball stadium now is eyeing a 6.4-acre parcel near Malden center, the current site of a National Grid gas operations facility.

Boston Baseball Field of Dreams, led by lawyer Alex Bok, is one of five private entities to express interest in the Commercial Street property across from the Orange Line/Malden Center MBTA station.

The minor league team would compete in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, where about 40 percent of the players are former major leaguers, Bok said.

It appears the ballpark project, estimated by Bok to cost more than $30 million, may have little competition for the property. Bok’s group is one of five private firms that responded to an initial request for proposals issued by the Malden Redevelopment Authority on behalf of National Grid.

The deadline to submit final proposals is noon today.

Among the five groups expressing interest, Combined Properties of Malden, Fort Hill Advisors of Boston, and Williamson Partners LLC, a commercial real estate group in Boston, told the Globe they decided not to submit final proposals. The last company, Northern Sites Development of West Newbury, Vt., could not be reached for comment.

“We would have to form a [development] team,’’ said Scott Bosworth, a principal at Fort Hill. “The timing is just too tight for us.’’

Chris Williamson, a principal at Williamson Partners, said a client he represented is no longer interested. “At this time I can not disclose the client nor provide any comments,’’ he said in an e-mail.

Chris Maietta, vice president at Combined Properties, said the firm has responded “more out of curiosity to see what was in the RFP.’’

National Grid plans to vacate the site this spring, after moving its gas operations to an electric distribution facility it operates on Medford Street. The Malden Redevelopment Authority, a public agency, is helping the utility to identify potential reuses for the industrial site.

“We have been working cooperatively with the [authority] as they redevelop local parcels of land to encourage revitalization of the area,’’ the company said in a written statement to the Globe. “Keeping within our regulatory framework, we intend to work together and continue the productive and cooperative relationship that has been established.’’

“This is one of the best development sites in the entire city,’’ said Stephen Wishoski, the Malden Redevelopment Authority’s executive director. “It’s accessible by public transportation. This is a big opportunity for the city to really maximize the value of the site.’’

The authority last month invited developers to submit proposals for the site. They were asked to identify their project’s benefit to the community. They also were asked to address the impact of traffic, parking, and other transportation issues.

The authority also sent information about the parcel to developers that already have worked in or expressed interest in the city. They include Burgess Properties, a Malden commercial real estate firm; Corcoran Jennison of Boston, which built a building on Pleasant Street for the state Department of Education; New Boston Associates, which once proposed building graduate student housing downtown; and National Development, which built Station Landing, a residential/commercial development in Medford.

“We wanted to do additional outreach to see what serious interest there might be in this site,’’ Wishoski said. “We’ve attempted to spread the word as far as we can.’’

Wishoski said tentative plans call for National Grid to lease the property to the authority, which would sublease it to a developer. Once final proposals are submitted and reviewed, “we’ll spend the next few weeks on it, and then make our recommendation to National Grid,’’ he said.

The city wants a development that will help boost the downtown economy, where a number of restaurants have opened in recent years, Wishoski said. “This is a big opportunity for the city to really maximize the value of the site, to create something that will have a really good spinoff effect for the other downtown businesses,’’ Wishoski said.

Bok said his group’s proposal would would make use of 1,500 spaces in parking garages that would be available during night and weekend games.

“We think it’s a wonderful site for a ballpark, given its proximity to the MBTA and the parking garages,’’ he said.

Bok said the stadium would be modeled on one in Springfield, Mo., where a Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals plays. “It will be a great stadium for baseball, but also a place where families can have fun,’’ he said. “There would be rides, slides, and activities for kids on the concourse.’’

In recent years, Bok’s group has pursued sites near Boston College High School in Dorchester and at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown. Now he hopes to hit a home run in Malden.

Bok said the minor league team would bring high-quality baseball to Greater Boston. The league’s alumni include former major league stars such as Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson, who at that point were trying to revive their careers.

“A lot of the players are still trying to show that they still can come back,’’ Bok said. “The level of ball is very good.’’

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.

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