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Relocated Fenway development draws praise

The decision to move developer John Rosenthal's planned mixed-use complex a block to the west appears to have broken a two-year logjam and may speed development over the Massachusetts Turnpike and around Fenway Park.

Since the Red Sox disclosed their intention in March to renovate the oldest and smallest ballpark in the major leagues and continue playing at Fenway, pressure to develop the area around the park has intensified.

Under the new plan, Rosenthal's 525 residential units, retail space, and 560-car garage would be built at the edge of the long Beacon Street bridge over the turnpike. It would partially occupy a parking lot targeted for a massive garage by the previous Red Sox ownership.

Two public parking garages with a capacity of 1,800 cars would be built over the turnpike to accommodate baseball patrons and employees of the nearby Longwood Medical and Academic Area.

The move has won backing from Rosenthal, Red Sox management, Kenmore Square and Fenway community groups, the city, and, tentatively, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which must approve it.

''This is a moment in time when the stars have lined up," said Rosenthal, who owns a parking garage on nearby Lansdowne Street and estimates he has spent $1.5 million devising his plan for a residential and retail complex.

The linchpin of the move is the construction of two 900-vehicle garages over the turnpike, on either side of Brookline Avenue.

The previous owners' plans to build a new Fenway Park in the neighborhood hinged on city funding to construct a major parking facility. No developer has yet been chosen to build the garages, but MASCO, a consortium of 21 Longwood institutions that currently leases and operates parking facilities and operates shuttle buses, is a strong possibility.

''There are not too many nonprofits that have the ability to build a garage based on the fact that it can fill them," said Marilyn Swartz-Lloyd, president of MASCO, an acronym for Medical Academic and Scientific Community Organization. ''We can do that." Though engineering studies haven't been done yet, she said, MASCO will explore using tax-exempt bonds to finance and build one or maybe both of the large garages. ''This is going to consolidate all the existing spaces in the area," she said.

Rosenthal's and MASCO's investments would be private. But most of those involved expect that public money would be needed to reconfigure local streets and connect them to the new garages.

It is too early for cost estimates, but the Legislature pledged $100 million for improvements in the area when the previous owners of the Red Sox were considering building a new ballpark. ''I think it is potentially available," Mark Maloney, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said of the state money.

Maloney said the city ''feels it's a good concept and one worth pursuing." He said city officials want to study traffic impacts, a concern echoed by the city-appointed community group reviewing development proposals in the area.

Maloney also raised concerns about the decision to award Rosenthal the right to develop the turnpike property along Beacon Street, and called for an open, competitive bidding process.

Pamela G. Beale, chairwoman of the Citizens Advisory Committee, called the relocation of Rosenthal's 850,000-square-foot project ''great," but warned: ''If it isn't done right and bogs down the neighborhood, that isn't to anybody's benefit." The plans, put together after the committee in August suggested that Rosenthal and the Red Sox work together to develop the area, were reviewed at a meeting of the committee last week.

At seven floors and five floors, the garages would cover the turnpike gash through the neighborhood but would not block the ''blue sky" views from the ballpark that the team is seeking to protect. The garages would be surrounded or ''faced" by residential units and first-floor retail space along Brookline Avenue.

Janet Marie Smith, Red Sox senior vice president, said, ''For anyone driving into the neighborhood to go to a bar, a game, the hospitals, there's very little public parking that's expected to remain" as development occurs around the park.

Rosenthal said this week that the Lansdowne Street parking garage he owns -- the very piece of real estate that led to his designation as a developer of turnpike air rights in the first place -- might later be sold to the Red Sox. The team could develop it according to its plan to broaden the entertainment theme in the Fenway Park and club district.

An important part of the plan outlined in a recent study completed by the Kenmore Association is improvements in public transportation. Rosenthal envisions a Yawkey commuter-rail station with a platform that extends to Brookline Avenue, and a tree-lined, lighted corridor extending from Fenway Station on the Green Line up to Yawkey Station and Fenway Park.

Rosenthal's ambitious original proposal included residential towers of 29 and 23 floors. Under pressure from the Red Sox and others, he reduced those to 20 and 17 floors, but even that was too high for the owners of the historic park. (The project is known as One Kenmore.) Towers of 20 and 17 floors built farther west, along Beacon Street, with seven floors of parking and residences surrounding them, received a better reception from neighborhood groups.

''What they came back to us with is some pretty exciting stuff -- there were a lot of good things in it," said Marc A. Laderman, a Citizens Advisory Committee member representing the Fenway Community Development Corporation.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at tpalmer@globe.com.

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