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Defending Fenway’s Heritage

Emily Kahn, Boston Preservation Alliance Intern

What do you think of when you think of the Fenway and Kenmore neighborhood? Many people would respond Fenway Park. While this answer is not incorrect, it is incomplete. Fenway Park, a National Register of Historic Places listed building and pending local Landmark that the Alliance saved from demolition in the early-2000s, clearly is a central part of this neighborhood (especially with the Red Sox’s current winning streak!). It brings joy to the nearly forty thousand spectators at each Red Sox game as well as the 300,000 tourists who visit outside of games each year, making Fenway Park the neighborhood’s (and one of Boston’s) main tourist attractions. Yet, since the erection of Fenway Park in 1912 spurred the neighborhood’s development, Fenway/Kenmore has developed into so much more than just the baseball hub of Boston. 

Fenway/Kenmore is home to a host of cultural, artistic, scientific, and academic institutions housed in structures with a variety of architectural styles: Heroic, Greek Revival, Georgian, Neoclassical, and Beaux Art are a few of them. In this neighborhood, you will find families and prospective students touring Boston University, Simmons College, Emmanuel College, Emerson College, Northeastern University, and Wentworth Institute of Technology, among others. A visit to the Fenway Cultural District lets you stand just inches away from Rembrandt and Monet paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, both of which are located in Alliance award-winning buildings. You will encounter a diverse range of music genres from rock at the Verb Hotel (a recent Alliance Preservation Achievement Award winner) to jazz at the House of Blues to classical at the New England and Boston conservatories. Strolls through Fenway/Kenmore lead you through Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace and the Bay State Road/Back Bay West Architectural Conservation District lined with late-nineteenth century revival style buildings. In this small region of Boston, there are nearly twenty properties and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places for you to explore, including the Landmark Center, Ruggles Baptist Church, and Horticulture Hall. And, on top of all of this recreation, Fenway is home to some of the best medical care and training in the world. The Alliance recently completed a survey of the Longwood Medical Area’s historic resources, and you likely would be surprised by the range of historic buildings there—well beyond Harvard Medical School’s classically grand campus. 

The diversity of Fenway’s attractions and architecture makes it a vibrant place to visit or to call home. However, new developments that ignore the community needs and the historic fabric of Fenway/Kenmore threaten the very essence of this neighborhood. As in many parts of Boston, new developments raise a strong tension between meeting affordability needs and growing luxury office, residential, and retail spaces. In Fenway/Kenmore, there is a high student and young professional population that needs both reasonably-priced housing and office space, adding an additional layer of complexity to neighborhood and development concerns. Existing buildings and architectural features often are caught amid the debate. Many of the proposals are not sensitive to the height, context, density, and materiality of the neighborhood, raising concerns about the disruption of the sightlines to Fenway Park and the Citgo Sign. While Fenway can still call itself home to a number of Landmarks, an over-saturation of contemporary glass and metal high-rise buildings could (literally) overshadow the appearance and spirit of the neighborhood.

The Boston Preservation Alliance recognizes that urban development is critical for the lasting economic and social prosperity of the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood. However, the Alliance wants development that addresses community concerns and respects the neighborhood’s past. Thus, through the 2018 Fenway Neighborhood Preservation Survey, the Alliance invites you to share your ideas on how to balance heritage and development in Fenway/Kenmore. The neighborhood will evolve and change, but we ask you to consider how that change can best be managed so that Fenway/Kenmore remains distinctive. As with the Alliance’s 2009-2012 Neighborhood Preservation Workshops in Allston, Dorchester, East Boston, and Roxbury, this project maintains the goals of building a strong network of advocates, assisting communities, providing a forum, and fostering connections with local community members and organizations. The Fenway Neighborhood Preservation Project ultimately intends to identify and guide advocacy for high-risk preservation priorities based on the expressed needs and values of community stakeholders. 

So how can you get involved? 

1.    Complete this short survey: Submissions are due by Friday, August 31, 2018.
2.    Consult the attached list of Landmarked, listed, and Alliance award-winning properties in Fenway/Kenmore.
3.    Keep up to date on the latest development proposals and public meetings in Fenway/Kenmore by checking out the Boston Planning and Development Agency website
4.    Take a walk around Fenway/Kenmore. Think about what features stand out to you, what developments you think the neighborhood needs, and what features you would not want to lose. Tag your photos with #PreservationBucketList.  
5. Attend the upcoming event, “ The Fenway—Preserving, Creating, and Sustaining Our Vibrant Neighborhood: A Community Conversation”  Thursday, August 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Fenway Community Center, 1282 Boylston Street. 
6.    Contact Emily Kahn (ekahn@bostonpreservation.org) to set up a meeting to discuss your thoughts on Fenway/Kenmore. 



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