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Mayor seeks to broker deals with property owners for ballpark site

Posted by Jarret Bencks  February 5, 2013 10:22 AM

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Mayor Gary Christenson said he will attempt to facilitate a deal between developers looking to build a minor league baseball park in Malden and three property owners, but taking the land by eminent domain has not been ruled out.

"I'm still operating under the hope that we will not have to entertain that possibility," Christenson said Monday.

Christenson announced his plans to intervene at the opening of a public hearing Monday night for plans to build the 6,500-seat ballpark on 9 acres along Commercial Street. It would be home to a team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

Development group Boston Baseball Field of Dreams LLC, led by Alexander Bok, reached a 40-year, $20 million lease agreement in November on a 6.4-acre site, formerly a gas plant, along Commercial Street owned by National Grid. Three abutting parcels totaling about 2 acres need to be acquired for the deal to work.

The three businesses include Collex Collision, L & L Services, and Spadafora Auto Parts. Christenson, Bok and representatives from the Malden Chamber of Commerce are expected to try to hammer out deals on Friday.

The developers have spoken with the landowners sporadically, but have not been able to arrange a meeting with all of them since 2008, Bok said after Monday's hearing.

"I think the effort of the mayor and the chamber will be very helpful," Bok said.

Ted Coates, executive director of the Malden Chamber of Commerce, urged against taking land by eminent domain.

"If its a wonderful thing for us, it has to be a wonderful thing for the people who have to move out," Coates said. "... We hope this all works out for everybody's good."

Bok first aimed for the park to open in the spring of 2014, but it has been pushed to 2015, a result of a review of environmental remediation needs at the National Grid site that took longer than expected, Bok said.

In order to open for the 2015 season, construction would have to begin in the fall.

While the land deals are yet to be settled, an advisory commission formed by the city heard concerns from the public on the impact the project could have on traffic, parking, and public safety Monday night at Malden Government Center.

Rockland Park resident Judith Allonby said already existing parking problems on her street will only be exacerbated by the park.

"I'm fighting a never-ending battle," she said. "... People in the suburbs won't take the T, they will drive."

Resident Mike MacDougall said he wanted to know how traffic would be addressed, considering most of the roads near the stadium are two lanes. He also wondered how the park will be used in the off-season.

"What's going to draw people there the other two-thirds of the year?" he said.

Malden Redevelopment Authority executive director Stephen Wishoski, who led the hearing, said the issues raised would be reviewed, and some may be addressed in future public hearings.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JarretBencks.

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