Parcels targeted for new ballpark
Negotiations to begin with current owners
The developer of a proposed minor league baseball stadium told the Malden Redevelopment Authority last Tuesday that his group is planning to make offers by the end of April to buy three plots of land required to move forward on the $50 million project.
The properties are home to three businesses: L&L Services, a trucking and landscaping company at 11 Canal St.; Spadafora’s Auto Parts, 129 Charles St.; and Collex auto body repair, 124 Centre St. Together, they make up roughly a quarter of the 7-acre site primarily owned by National Grid, which is expected to lease its site on Commercial Street across from the MBTA Orange Line station long-term to the stadium developers.
“We’ll make an offer [on the smaller properties] by the end of April; then we’ll see if they’re in a negotiating mode,’’ said Alex Bok, the Boston lawyer and president of the Boston Baseball Field of Dreams LLC, which has been seeking a Boston-area ballpark for several years. “We’re looking to get a deal done to purchase their land by next March or April.’’
If all goes according to plan, workers could break ground by this time next year, Bok said.
Although negotiations will not truly begin until offers are on the table, lurking in the background is the possibility that the Malden Redevelopment Authority may take the properties by eminent domain, said George McLaughlin, an attorney representing L&L Services and Spadafora’s Auto Parts.
“I have a wait-and-see attitude,’’ said McLaughlin. “These are businesses that have been here a long time. If [the developers] want to step up to the plate and pay us fair-market money, I think a deal could be struck, as long as we get the whole pie.’’
At issue will be the compensation levels not just for the land, but for the costs associated with relocating the businesses. If Bok low-balls the owners and the redevelopment authority steps in to take the properties by eminent domain, McLaughlin said he has no qualms about taking the matter to court.
“Give me a jury trial any day of the week; that’s my ‘field of dreams,’ that’s my ballpark,’’ McLaughlin said.
At the Tuesday meeting, Bok said he plans to make above-market offers on the property and has consulted an appraiser to help formulate his bids.
For the redevelopment authority to exercise its right to take the property, it would first have to designate the area an urban renewal zone, which would trigger a public hearing process, said Deborah Burke, the authority’s assistant executive director. Then the state Department of Housing and Community Development would have to sign off on the renewal plan, she said.
“The hope is that any acquisitions that are made are done privately between Bok’s team and the three private parcel owners,’’ Burke said.
In the meantime, the Baseball Field of Dreams group has grown to include roughly 20 consultants, architects, and planners who are working to hammer out the details that accompany the $50 million stadium. Before the group can complete a deal with National Grid, a two-month, $85,000 study by a baseball economics consultant will help the utility understand the intricacies of the baseball business.
“They’re a big institution,’’ Bok said of the utility. “They’re a company headquartered in London. It will take time to get a transaction done with them.’’
The stadium team has roughly a year to draw up detailed architectural plans, complete environmental and traffic studies, and apply for zoning and permitting changes. The zoning and permitting process will eventually spark a round of public hearings on the stadium.
The National Grid site is 10 feet narrower than previously believed, forcing the field to be shifted slightly north, said Mark J. Rosenhein, project manager for the Chelsea architectural firm that is collaborating on the plans.
A large gas pipe that runs beneath the property would have to be relocated, although a brick pumping station owned by National Grid will remain, he said.
Rosenhein said that once the large pieces of the park are locked in, planners can shift focus to the details. Because the Malden River once flowed at the site, planners said a possible theme could incorporate elements of the river’s history, and of Malden’s past.
“We’ll have failed if you come to the park and not learn something about the history of Malden,’’ Rosenhein said.
Matt Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.