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Malden Evening News
MRA Board unanimously moves ballpark proposal forward last night
Boston Field of Dreams group can now pursue site sublease negotiations
Internal review committee had recommended BBFOD be given preliminary developer status

By KEVIN MACCIOLI
February 9, 2012

MALDEN – The proposal to build a privately financed baseball stadium in Malden Square got a major boost last night when the Malden Redevelopment Authority Board of Directors voted to grant a preliminary developer’s designation to Boston Baseball Field of Dreams (BBFD).

The granting of the designation – by a unanimous 4-0 vote – clears the way for BBFD to begin negotiating with National Grid for a sublease of its property at 100 Commercial Street.  The utility provider intends to vacate the property later this year as it consolidates its operations in Malden, moving all its personnel to its Medford Street facility.

BBFD, led by Alexander Bok, has been eyeing the National Grid site for more than three years.  It made its desire to lease the site formal in a December reply to a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) in conjunction with National Grid last October.  According to the RFP, the MRA would lease the property from National Grid and sublease the site to the preferred developer if a lease agreement can be reached by National Grid and the developer.

While BBFD negotiates a sublease agreement with National Grid it will also be trying to reach agreement with owners of three parcels of land along the back side of the site on Canal Street to purchase those properties.  The group has indicated acquisitions of those three parcels of land are necessary to making the project move forward.

Last night’s vote followed a recommendation from an internal review committee that studied various aspects of the proposal including financial information provided in the RFP response.  The internal review committee included MRA leaders, elected and appointed city officials and local business people.

In a memo to MRA Executive Director Stephen Wishoski, members of the subcommittee that looked at the financial aspects of the proposal said it could provide economic benefits for the city.

“The potential financial and economic development benefits of the proposed project are considerable,” wrote Barry Abramson of Abramson & Associates, a real estate advisory service.  “This is why municipalities across the country have often provided considerable subsidy to attract such development, an investment that Malden is not being requested to make.”

During a question and answer session with the MRA Board last night, Bok said in addition to having independent league baseball in the stadium, his group would also like to have local high school baseball and possibly football games played as well.  In fielding a question from MRA Board Member Bob Rotondi, Bok said officials are trying to find a way to make it so football dimensions can be worked into the baseball playing surface.

Addressing the MRA board, Mayor Gary Christenson said he is “intrigued and energized” by the proposal to build a baseball stadium in the city.  He said in addition to hosting athletic contests, the stadium could also play host to concerts and other non-athletic events.

“It’s really, really rare where you get a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Christenson.  “I think this is ours.”

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to move forward and to have the opportunity to enter negotiations with National Grid,” said Bok following the vote.  “We look forward to moving this along and bringing independent league baseball to the city in two years.”

Under the terms of the resolution approved by the MRA board last night, BBFD will have to report back to the board in April as to its progress on negotiations with National Grid and three private land owners.

The Malden Evening News will have continuing coverage of this story.

-- Kevin Maccioli can be reached at kmaccioli@maldennews.com and followed on Twitter @MaldenNews
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Wishoski: Ballpark proposal review “intensive”


By KEVIN MACCIOLI

February 8, 2012


MALDEN – The proposal by the Boston Baseball Field of Dreams group to construct a professional baseball stadium in Malden has cleared its first hurdle and could clear its second hurdle by the end of Wednesday.

As was first reported in the Malden Evening News the BBFOD proposal to construct the stadium on the National Grid site on Commercial Street received a favorable recommendation last month from an internal review committee put together by the Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA).  The recommendation has been forwarded to the MRA Board of Directors which is expected to vote Wednesday night on whether to grant a preliminary developer’s designation to the group as the preferred developer.

Wednesday’s meeting is public, but it is not a hearing so residents will not have an opportunity to comment during the session.

Designating BBFOD as the preferred developer would clear the way for the group to begin negotiating with National Grid for a sublease of the property.  National Grid intends to retain ownership of the property.

The group would also open negotiations with owners of three properties on Canal Street that abut the National Grid parcel and have been identified by BBFOD as necessary to make the project work.

The positive recommendation from the internal review committee – which included MRA officials, elected and appointed officials and business people – followed a process that included a public presentation of the project and a finance review carried out by three members of the committee with private business and financial experience.

“It was a very intensive review of this proposal by this internal committee,” Wishoski told the Malden Evening News yesterday.

Wishoski said the decision to recommend the project move forward is a significant one.

“I think this is a very big step because the process the subcommittee went through,” he said, adding representatives of National Grid were present at the internal review committee meetings and so are privy to the details of the proposal.

“They’re already aware of the lengths the group has gone move this proposal to this point,” said Wishoski of National Grid, though the utility has already indicated it has an internal process it will need to work through before agreeing to lease the property.  That process could take some months.

Wishoski said should the MRA Board of Directors vote favorably on the preliminary designation Wednesday night, BBFOD would have a six month to negotiate with National Grid and to attempt to negotiate with the other property owners.  The group would have to report back to the board sometime in April to provide a progress report.

Officials said should negotiations prove successful the public would once again have an opportunity to have its voice heard.  Wishoski said whether the city decides to pursue an urban renewal plan or a zoning changes there will be opportunity for “extensive public involvement.”

Wishoski said during the internal review process the public had the opportunity to submit questions for the panel to put to developers and to participate in two surveys.

“Not to say everyone is happy but I think people at least felt like they were heard,” said Wishoski.  “I think this has been a good process.”


Stadium proposal gets key recommendation


By KEVIN MACCIOLI


MALDEN – A group’s proposal to built a professional baseball stadium in downtown Malden has earned a key recommendation from the first panel to look at the plan, the Malden Evening News has learned.

The internal review committee put together by the Malden Redevelopment Committee (MRA) – and comprised of elected and appointed officials, business people and MRA leaders – voted late last month to recommend Boston Baseball Field of Dreams (BBFOD) be granted a preliminary designation as the preferred developer for the National Grid site on Commercial Street.  BBFOD, led by Alexander Bok, was the only group to respond to a request for proposals (RFP) for redevelopment of land put out by the MRA in conjunction with National Grid which is in the process of consolidating its operations in Malden, moving its personnel to Medford Street.  The company plans to continue to own the Commercial Street land, but will lease it for development.

The unanimous recommendation of the eight member panel has been passed on to the MRA Board of Directors which will meet Wednesday night to vote on whether to grant BBFOD the preliminary designation as the preferred developer.  Granting the designation would allow BBFOD to enter negotiations with National Grid for a sublease.  BBFOD will also have to launch negotiations with owners of three parcels of land on Canal Street that back up to the National Grid property.  The group has indicated all four parcels are needed to complete the project.

While the developers of the proposed stadium already appeared before the public once to pitch their proposal, further public discussion regarding things like potential zoning changes or a possible urban renewal plan would be held only if negotiations between BBFOD and National Grid prove successful.


-- Kevin Maccioli can be reached at kmaccioli@maldennews.com and followed on Twitter @MaldenNews


 
Malden Evening News
Don’t be misled: Stadium plan is good for Malden

By KEVIN MACCIOLI
January 18, 2012

I don’t typically find myself sitting at my computer writing a piece to counter something another person has penned in a different newspaper, but I find myself doing it now.

Paul McMorrow’s column in the Boston Globe this week contends construction of a 6,400-seat baseball stadium to host an independent league ball club on the National Grid property in Malden Square would be “a regressive use” for the site.  He is, in my opinion, so far off base my six-month-old son could pick him off.

The proposal by attorney Alexander Bok and his Baseball Field of Dreams (BFOD) group might just be the shot in the arm the city needs when it comes to redevelopment in Malden Square.

In his piece, McMorrow argues the site would be better off with a “substantial apartment and shopping complex,” but what he’s missing is the city has already made inroads in bringing housing to the downtown and more is in the pipeline.  He’s also missing the point that with shopping complexes in neighboring Everett and Medford – literally just across the borders in either direction – no major developer is looking to bring more of the same to Malden.

How do we know no one is interested in building housing or shopping complexes on the site?  

That’s easy.

The Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA), acting in conjunction with National Grid and the city, put out a request for proposals (RFP) trying to see who would be interested in redeveloping the site and the only response came from Bok and his group.

What Malden Square needs now is an activity, a venue that sets it apart from Somerville and Cambridge and Melrose.  Malden has top quality restaurants for people to spend their dining dollars, but it lacks a place for those same people to spend their entertainment dollars.

A sports stadium to host baseball games, concerts and other outdoor events is not the panacea for what ails Malden Square and no one with half a brain would argue it is.  What a privately financed, well-constructed sports stadium with a half-way decent team can do is attract new visitors to Malden Square and potentially help spur other economically beneficial projects, like construction of a small hotel or another small entertainment venue.  No one was traveling to Brockton or Lynn – previous homes to independent baseball teams – on a lark to check out a game because the products were poor, the stadiums were controlled by public entities, they lacked modern amenities and because they were not easily accessible.

This proposed development is not being put forward by Larry, his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl.  It is being put forward by smart, accomplished individuals – some of whom have worked to finance projects much larger than this – and they want to build a sports stadium in Malden because they believe they can succeed in Malden.  I, for one, can say I’ll attend games here with my family on a regular basis.

Bok and his group believe this location is ideal for a stadium because there are already two parking garages nearby, a heavily used train station across the street and demographics that make sense.  They plan to build a stadium that will have many modern amenities that will make it visitor- and family-friendly and the on-field product is likely to be better as well, though no one should be thinking they’re going to see Brooks Robinson or Dustin Pedroia playing infield.

This is not a perfect proposal for sure, and there are still many hurdles to be cleared – including getting National Grid and BFOD to come to lease terms for the property – before it can become a reality, and it still might not happen for a number of reasons, but to reject it out of hand would be a mistake the likes of which I believe residents of Malden will regret as much as Grady Little regrets letting Pedro face just one more hitter.

Kevin Maccioli is a reporter for the Malden Evening News and Medford Daily Mercury
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