Fenway

Area between Boylston Street (west & north) and The Fenway (east & south)
Boston, MA

Submitted by: Steven Heuchert

A little bit of Europe with an American twist.

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Why It Works

Fenway is a mixed use, but primarily residential, mixed income, high density neighborhood. The social mix includes shop keepers, students, artists, yuppies, the elderly, and nature lovers. It is a little bit of Europe with an American twist. The area is around 1/2 square miles and includes a grid system of short blocks bounded by a commercial strip to the north and a grand linear park and the Museum of Fine Arts to the south. The connections to the neighborhood are excellent, the edges of the neighborhood are well defined, yet it is considerably isolated from the surrounding traffic chaos as vehicles are routed away from the neighborhood.

What Makes Fenway a Great Place?

One of the beauties of Fenway is that it is fully accessible by foot, bus and streetcar (the "T" in Boston lingo). The sidewalks are wide, tree lined and many of them terminate in the Olmstead designed Fens, the local park that defines the southern and eastern edge. The roads are narrow with on-street parking and the blocks of early 20th Century brownstones are serviced by alleys. Each building has a finely detailed and well defined entrance and the buildings have just enough setback from the sidewalk to allow for well landscaped gardens. Corner shops, local restaurants, the park, and Boston cultural activities are all within the neighborhood or close by.

Entering the neighborhood from Boylston Street (coming from Fenway Park baseball stadium) or from Northeastern University, one is immediately aware that he/she is entering somewhere special, like an outdoor living room. All of a sudden there is a perfect balance of well proportioned built form with street trees and multiple vistas to the Fens, the Victory Gardens (the public allotment gardens), the Rose Kennedy Rose Garden, and the Museum of Fine Arts.

The City of Boston, the apartment owners, the Fenway Garden Society and the local "early release" program keep the neighborhood extremely clean and well maintained. There are multiple park benches. The eyes on the street, including residents, shopkeepers and dog walkers, keep the neighborhood safe. A building on the corner of Park Drive and Jersey Street houses an early release program and the gentlemen there are on their best behavior and help to keep the streets clean and safe. There are vehicles parallel parked on the street, but the spots are limited to residents' use and the heavy tree canopy dominates over the parking.

The entire neighborhood has people on the streets all day and evening; the social mix ensures that there is no regular 9 to 5 in- and out-flow. There is a mixed demographic of various races and sexual orientation. Likely the least used space is Boyston Street, on the north edge, but this street is transitioning from auto-oriented to main street-oriented. This should improve as new infill development occurs.

An interesting characteristic of this neighborhood is that it is mostly defined by its urban design rather than its permanent population. As most of the buildings include rental units and the neighborhood is near two universities, there is a high turnover - with workers and students renting and then moving out. Despite this, the diversity of population continues and many people who have lived there have fond memories of their time.

It is almost a microcosm of a life on a university campus. Everyone seems in a good mood with much coming and going. Even the local homeless who stake out a spot in front of the corner shops are docile and pleasant. The beer store owner is a very pleasant man, always smiling. There is a strong element of local pride, and an active neighborhood group. Fenway is not so much a meeting place, as it is a hidden gem, and therefore few tourists visit except during Red Sox Games when confused baseball fans from the suburbs can be seen searching for their towed vehicles...

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