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Jane Jacobs' Legacy Up to Bat in Downtown Malden

There's an argument against turning Malden's most promising development parcel into a baseball stadium: the team might suck. More specifically, according to CommonWealth's Paul McMorrow in The Globe today: "Malden would follow a well-worn path, in which local fans tire of watching a rotating cast of players outside the Major League pipeline, the team folds, and the city gets stuck with a white elephant of a stadium."

So why do private developers and public officials want to turn the 6.5-acre site in downtown Malden owned by National Grid into a 6,372-seat minor league stadium? For the children, of course.

The Malden ballpark’s prospective developer, Boston lawyer Alexander Bok, speaks passionately about bringing affordable baseball to Boston. He worries about losing a generation of new baseball fans to Fenway Park’s prices. He says a stadium on the Orange Line will draw families from across the region. He oozes earnestness. Thing is, though, stadiums (or stadia, if you prefer) are rarely a revitalizing force for the areas that surround them, and this one is unlikely to help turn around downtown Malden, which, as McMorrow points out, is pocked by empty storefronts and feels desolate even during daylight. It's got a transit stop and is just 4 miles from a hopping Davis Square in Somerville, but can't seem to make it work. The stadium won't help that as people tend to flee post-game and to not want to live nearby. Plus:

Independent baseball teams have a history of flaming out around Boston. Two separate bids at running a team in Lynn failed, while the Brockton Rox just announced that they won’t be fielding a team in 2012, after defaulting on a $125,000 lease payment on their publicly owned stadium. Plummeting attendance and an eroding season ticket base caused Brockton’s team to run out of cash; attendance averaged a third of stadium capacity over the past two years. McMorrow and others are pitching an apartment complex for the site, with retail on the side. Better to have a consistently busy hub off a transit line than one only sporadically so and for an indefinite length of time (think Jane Jacobs). But the cost of cleanup—the detritus of decades of gas and coal companies has left the soil polluted—may prove more expensive than building a stadium.

Your call.

· Baseball's a Bad Call at Malden Site [Globe]
·l Jane Jacobs and Boston: Too Much Back Bay, Too Little Roxbury [Curbed Boston]