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Malden board gives go-ahead to 'Play Ball' on Commercial Street site

Posted by Kathy McCabe  February 9, 2012 10:04 AM

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Final Malden Park Renderings-7.jpg

Pellham Phillips/the architectural team

A view of the Malden Park design from Centre Street (Route 60).

The Malden Redevelopment Authority last night chose Boston Baseball Field of Dreams to redevelop an 8-acre parcel on Commercial Street across from the MBTA Orange Line station.

The group, led by Boston lawyer Alex Bok, proposes to build a $50 million minor league baseball stadium called Malden Park on land currently occuped by a National Grid gas operations facility and three smaller businesses.

The four parcels take up an entire city block in the heart of downtown. It is one of the last major parcels available for redevelopment in the city, and plans for its reuse have been much anticipated.

The authority's board last night gave the nod to Bok, voting 4-0 to name his group the so-called "preliminary developer," giving it the green light to negotiate with property owners.

"We have been at this for 3 1/2 years," said Alex Bok, a Boston lawyer who heads the baseball group. "We are excited to be able to start to work with National Grid and the other property owners."

Bok's group will have until July 17 to reach agreement with National Grid and the other property owners to secure the land. But the deadline also can be extended by a vote of the board, according to copy of the resolution passed last night.

If negotiations are successful, the proposal would then have to go through state and local permitting process. "We still have a long way to go, "said Stephen M. Wishoski, executive director of the Malden Redevelopment Authority. "There will be ample opportunity for the public to comment."

The authority's  board chose to designate Bok's group with little discussion.  "As a lifelong Malden resident, I'm really proud you chose us," said Diego Barricelli, a board member, addressing the Bok group. "It will bring some life to us in tough times."

Mayor Gary Christenson spoke in favor of the park.  "I believe  this is the type of project we need to move Malden forward,"  Christenson told the board. "It's being done with no financial assistance from the city."
                              
Bok had been scouting sites to build a minor league baseball facility for some time. After two sites fell through in Boston, he turned to Malden, a city accessible by major highways and the Orange Line MBTA.  "This is no second choice site," Bok said. "This is the perfect site."
                           
National Grid also had been considering moving operations away from Commercial Street to another facility it owns in the city.  The utility last year teamed up with the authority to identify a reuse plan for the parcel. In October, the city issued a request for proposals to redevelop the site. Bok's group was the only respondent.

The proposed  Malden Park would have 6,372 seats, 16 sky boxes, a pro shop, restaurants, and a 30,000 square foot plaza opening onto Commercial Street. It would host a team from the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, but he has not yet secured a franchise, Bok said.

The park would host 70 games per season, which would be played on nights and weekends. But the facility, with restaurants and meeting space, also could be used at other times of the year for community events.

"We're looking forward to Opening Day, two years from this April," Bok said.

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

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