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Red Sox seek more sites near Fenway

In talks for 3 properties in an area ripe for change

The Fenway neighborhood is suddenly one of the hottest development plays in Boston, with the Boston Red Sox themselves quietly attempting to scoop up properties as they move aggressively to secure their long-term future in Fenway Park.

The Red Sox confirmed yesterday that they are in discussions to buy three relatively small properties around Fenway Park: the Town Taxi garage on Ipswich Street and the McDonald's restaurant and WBCN radio studios, both on Boylston Street.

''We have tried to stay quiet about it," said Janet Marie Smith, the architect of the Red Sox's plans to remake Fenway Park. She and other Red Sox officials said there are no immediate plans for major changes to the properties, though the deals should allow the team to continue to shift offices out of the park to make room for fans. ''We have been looking for anything in the area that might help us with our space problems," she said. ''It surprised us it took three years to find a single property."

The Red Sox moves have focused new attention on the development potential in and around Kenmore Square, an area long dominated by Boston University and its students.

Developer Steve Samuels has started work on Trilogy, a 576-unit apartment complex, just across from the Landmark Center, and has submitted a letter of intent for another mixed-use project on Bolyston Street.

Developer John Rosenthal appears to be making progress on a plan to build two buildings over the Massachusetts Turnpike, just behind Fenway Park's Green Monster.

''Some iteration of the Rosenthal project will be a reality very shortly," Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday. But Menino added that he's still waiting for a broader plan for the area: ''What is the master plan? What is the plan over there? That's what I want to see."

Fenway Park will be at the center of any development push. The Red Sox owners have refused to say they have made a final decision on staying in Fenway Park, but all the moves indicate that is their plan. Since buying the team, they have been adding seats and upgrading baseball's smallest park. Last month, they said the glass around the .406 Club, long considered a mistake by the former ownership, would be removed. A new year-round restaurant at the corner of Lansdowne and Brookline streets, being developed by the Red Sox with Boston nightclub entrepreneur Patrick Lyons, is expected to be ready by opening day.

But the Red Sox thinking clearly goes beyond the park itself, and they are looking to maximize revenue both inside and outside the park. They are also thinking offensively and defensively as other developers eye opportunities around the ballpark.

The Red Sox, for instance, have been the leading opponent of Rosenthal's project, which in its most recent incarnation called for as many as 500 condominiums and apartments in two towers, one 15 stories and the other 17 stories. The Red Sox have expressed concern about having two towers just behind the left-field wall.

Smith said she ''had nothing to report" on the Rosenthal project, but Rosenthal said, ''Our discussions are ongoing in very good faith." On the Sox's plans to buy the three properties around Fenway, Rosenthal said: ''It makes great sense for the Red Sox to purchase land around them for future expansion as well as to protect their investment. That just makes good business sense."

Among the developers the Red Sox are watching -- and competing with -- is Steve Samuels, who heads Samuels & Associates. Besides the $200 million Trilogy project and his other mixed-used development planned on Boylston, Samuels is also in discussions with owners of the Goodyear tire store on Bolyston Street.

Other developers are buying up adjacent parcels. ''The Red Sox don't want Steve Samuels or others to box them in to a small square," said one development executive.

Community activists said they expect the Red Sox and other developers to abide by the zoning and other planning that has gone into the area.

''I would expect the city to hold them to the new zoning for the Fenway that just went into effect and that they'd not be allowed to do something different just because they're the Red Sox," said Bill Richardson, president of the Fenway Civic Association.

The zoning changes call for new development in the Fenway to have a large residential component, said Richardson, who also chaired a task force that worked with the city to help draw up the changes. ''They have as much right to buy property as anyone else," he said. ''This is still America. But if they want to tear down the WBCN building, we'd expect them to conform to the new zoning."

Steve Bailey can be reached at bailey@globe.com or at 617-929-2902. Globe reporter Chris Reidy contributed to this report.

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