A City Council committee will hold a hearing on a proposal by Councilor Althea Garrison (at large) to urge the BPDA to quash developers' plans to renovate the crumbling eyesore of the former Alexandra Hotel on Washington Street at Massachusetts Avenue by building a 13-story boutique hotel inside a renovated facade.
Unusual for a hearing request, however, no other councilors had their names added as co-sponsors.
In fact, three councilors - including the two whose districts meet at the intersection - said they would vote against any such proposal, both because they support the proposal to renovate the hotel's 19th-century facade in exchange for building new, more modern hotel floors above it, and because they don't think it's the council's role to interfere in what they said was a robust series of public hearings and meetings on the project by the BPDA.
Garrison's resolution calls on the BPDA to reject the proposal by Jas Bhogal and Thomas Calus as a complete violation of the lot's zoning because it is too tall and too shiny, essentially. Garrison said the new building would leave nearby buildings in permanent shadows and that the glass-sheathed upper floors would be totally out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. In her request for a hearing, she wrote:
As a “gateway” to the core of the South End, the proposed addition is a poor representation of the Victorian nature of the neighborhood and its heights is found nowhere else in the surrounding area.
Garrison also objected to the lack of parking on site, which she said would lead to increased congestion in the area.
But Councilor Kim Janey (Roxbury) said the developers have also come up with a good plan to deal with what has been a neighborhood eyesore for at least 30 years and repeated, failed renovation efforts and have made commitments to hire locally, to help spruce up all of the intersections four corners, and even to promote shops in Dudley Square.
Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester), whose district ends at the intersection, also opposed Garrison's proposal. He pointed to what he called a "very robust community process," by the BPDA and said the upper floors would help the developers recoup the estimated $6 million to $7 million cost just to restore the existing facade. He noted an earlier proposal called for a 20-floor tower at the site.
Councilor Ed Flynn, who represents a part of the South End, said he would also oppose any effort to tell the BPDA what to do. Although his district does not include the hotel, he said its current sad state came up frequently while he was campaigning and in his time as a councilor.