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Alexandra Hotel renovation, expansion approved

Alexandra rendering

Architect's rendering. Not shown: Large blank wall that will face Roxbury.

The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved plans to refashion the historic but dilapidated Hotel Alexandra at Massachusetts Avenue and Washington Street into a 156-room, 13-floor hotel with ground-floor and roof-deck restaurants.

Developers Jas Bhogal and Thomas Calus won BPDA approval in March to completely gut what's left of the interior of the historic 1876 structure, keep the facades and then drop a new 13-story building inside them - and in the space vacated when the formerly historic Ivory Beane building was torn down before it could collapse.

The hotel will have no parking, but Bhogal and Calus will have a valet service at the Washington Street entrance - after they move the current Silver Line stop further down Washington Street.

The mayor's office and City Councilor Kim Janey (Roxbury, South End) supported the project. Janey acknowledged concerns over the building height, but said "the height is the trade off we'll take for dealing with the blight in this community."

Several residents spoke in favor. "I would like to get the blight off that corner," one said, adding that the developers have shown a strong commitment to train and hire local residents to work there.

Several residents opposed either the project or the way it moved through the approval process, saying it would cast shadows on nearby buildings and would exacerbate traffic and fumes from traffic in an area already over congested with vehicles and with a high rate of asthma. One resident said the developers seemed to have gone out of their way to ignore Roxbury residents - and that the large blank wall that would face the neighborhood was an affront. Another said letters informing nearby residents of meetings were mis-addressed, so most never got them.

An attorney for TDC, a non-profit group that owns several residential buildings in the area, including one right behind the Alexandra asked for the board to either deny the project outright or defer action until the developers could do something about the rear loading dock, which he said would be on a narrow alley that would make conditions unsafe for people who use the wheelchair ramp in his group's building

Marc LaCasse, the developers' attorney, said he is working with the group to come up with a solution to the handicap-access issue. He said the rear loading dock would mostly only be used for small box trucks and that deliveries in larger trucks would be made in the front. He added that the developers had held an extensive series of meetings with neighbors and the BPDA.

The board voted unanimously to support the project.

Alexandra Hotel documents.

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Comments

The Silver Line doesn’t run down Mass Ave, it only crosses it, so how could a stop be moved further down it?

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Voting closed 10

What exactly is horrendous about saving a beautiful old facade while also removing one of the oldest and most prominent blighted properties in the city?

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Voting closed 70

The other proposals for this site complied with zoning, rebuilt the rowhouse facade taken down next door, and didn't have a giant cheap glass cube thing above existing roof line. This developer was selected due to producing the most $$$ and not the best project.

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Voting closed 17

Oh give it a rest. It's expensive af to build in this city, nevermind rehab a long-dilapidated building like this. Things don't happen magically.

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Voting closed 21

I haven't seen any others that haven't fell through.

As for what proposal or developer was selected - its private property owned by the Church of Scientology (that let it rot), so they can pretty much do or sell it to whatever developer they want. Previous attempts at sale by them all fell through, generally because the purchaser realized how much of a shit show it was and how uneconomical it would be to preserve the building at all.

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Voting closed 21

it is infinitely preferable to letting the old hotel deteriorate any further, and eventually be demolished. Build it.

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Voting closed 28

Boston, like every other place in Massachusetts, is way over-zoned. Anything worth building needs variances.

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Voting closed 26

Ah but of course it is ALWAYS a factor because Boston's zoning was designed to preserve city as it was probably GOING to be if white flight continued unabated right on to the present.

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Voting closed 9

"This developer was selected ..."

You do realize this is private property, don't you?

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Voting closed 18

The glass steel monstrosity behind it that certainly doesn't look like it belongs there at all...The facade might be saved but it will look like Kenny's house in SoDaSoPa

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Voting closed 18

Would you rather the facade was torn down then? The building is/was structurally unsound, and the cost to restore the structure isn't economically feasible. The glass and steel look better than the concrete high rises a block away at Boston Medical.

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Voting closed 25

If every building which looks like it doesn't belong was blocked, Boston would still be mostly farmland.

I don't love the design but a city won't grow if new buildings must be nearly identical to what they replace.

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Voting closed 21

The desire to encase Boston in an architectural bubble is not a good thing. Especially when it results in lame versions of what once was (hardy-planked mansard roofs and boxy protrusions that "echo" bays come to mind). But is a glass box or stick-built horseshit really the best we can do? Yeah yeah yeah...it's SOOOO expensive to build in Boston....wahhhh.... we can't make the NUMBAHS work!!! The reality is that our architects suck -- or better said, the accountants that have their hands up the architects' asses like Jim Henson on a muppet, suck.

#crapitechture

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Voting closed 10

Gonna call WGBH and have them send This Old House over there to offset the cost to restore the place?

Do you have any rough idea of the cost involved with bringing this back to it's former glory while still up to code?

And THEN what?

Who would be able to afford it and would the increasing demo of young professionals even want to live there with no modern amenities.

Not too mention it's private property and the landlord could have just let the place crumble beyond any hope of repair and bulldoze the entire thing.

Go make the owner an offer if you don't like it.

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Voting closed 8

...if I had a shit-ton of money. I don't. Do you think the people developing Boston are poor?

How do they do this elsewhere? Milan has beautiful, modern architecture going up right next to historical gems. Milan's not exactly a cheap city. How do they make it work? In the name of a developer's bottomline we are all stuck with a shitbox skyline? Ok, sounds great. Glad we have that resolved.

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Voting closed 4

Typically the way this works is that a rich benefactor buys the house and restores it using their own money for their own personal use. Or, alternatively, if the building was in a very fancy neighborhood (this one is not), an ultra-lux developer might buy it and turn it into <10 ultra-lux units. The point isn't that the money doesn't exist to do these things, the point is that all of those outcomes, while possibly producing a more "historically accurate" building, would almost certainly be worse for the city and our housing crises.

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Voting closed 4

Got it, thanks. But I'm not actually looking for an historically accurate building or less density or whatever gives people fits. I'm looking for a building that after it is built is a landmark sort of structure that you would be proud to have built, to own and manage, or to live/work in.

Everything being built in this most recent building boom is put up cheaply (or, as cheap as it can be, which, people like to point out in Boston, is not all that cheap), quickly and then handed off to someone else (or better yet, permitted and made shovel-ready and THEN sold off to someone else - who will build something shoddy and sell it off quickly).

The historic building in question has been sitting there with the hairdressers supply business in it, slowly decaying probably for longer than most of these new buildings will actually last. It would be nice to see the building preserved, but to do it in a manner that accommodates huge profit margins (many small overpriced units) will be a tall and costly order. It would be cheaper and more efficient for them to just knock it down. And that's the problem.

Personally I don't feel planning and development can be just left to market forces. There has to be some other guiding values and principles outside of one company's business plan. There are many others who don't feel that way. And then there's the management of the BPDA, ZBA and the Mayor's office. I think we'll be stuck with continued crappy buildings, if I had to guess.

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Voting closed 3

lol there are absolutely no "huge profit margins" on development in Boston. That said, I'm not sure I'd agree that everything is just being put up cheaply either. Hardi-plank (seemingly the material of choice nearly everywhere right now) is not actually that cheap, and a lot more time and energy is now being spent air-sealing buildings (much of which might have been spent hand-sculpting stonework 100 years ago). I guess might say that our priorities have shifted. Also given the need for ever improving energy efficiency and density, it's probably just as well if our buildings do not last 100 years because they will become functionally obsolete in that time.

Personally I don't feel planning and development can be just left to market forces.

Well then you should be pretty happy with the status quo wherein almost nothing is left to the "chance" of the market except perhaps the color of the building's exterior cladding. And even that is subject to "design review."

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Voting closed 7

To something that resembled the facade of the Alexandra, then it may work. Right now it looks like a fake shell glued onto a glassy tower

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Voting closed 12

The BRA tends to not like new buildings looking like old buildings....

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Voting closed 4

Beautiful!! Build it!!

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Voting closed 11

before this, the best option for reviving that building/corner was to have a rich, powerful, world-wide cult in the neighborhood brainwashing your neighbors:
https://www.universalhub.com/2016/scientologists-may-have-found-buyer-ol...
Lets all just be happy something is actually being done with the place!

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Voting closed 46

The Silver Line stop is being moved about 60 feet down Washington Street, not Mass. Ave. Reading comprehension? As for horrendous? Because what's there is so much better, right?

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Voting closed 5

The silver line runs down Washington St. and the stop will be moved to a different spot on Washington St.

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Voting closed 4

Do you mean "further down Washington Street"? And if so, won't that inconvenience many people who live and work in the neighborhood, including at Boston Medical Center?

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Voting closed 7

Got my streets mixed up - one of the hazards of writing up one zoning hearing while trying to sort of pay attention to another. Fixed.

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Voting closed 16

To make way for a private valet service = Very bad precedent. Which one is next . . ?

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Voting closed 16

Everyone calm down, it’s literally moving maybe 40 feet down the road off the corner.

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Voting closed 10

stop on the Silver Line was moved 500 feet down Washington Street, to the other side of W. Dedham Street, when the Penny Savings Bank was redeveloped into condos much like this project: by dropping a gleaming glass cube into existing facade. It was done for the benefit of the fancy restaurant that was going in there (an architectural wonder / eyesore then called Banq, now Boston Chops.)

I'm glad to see this hotel going in and keeping the street-level facade, even though the construction and eventual traffic will not be great for me.

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Voting closed 3

Thank God. Well overdue. That site is a mess. Glad to see Councilor Janey understands the trade offs and chose to support this.

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Voting closed 42

janey is all for it until they turn her away like the marriott on melnea cass did back in january it took another citizen to file a complaint to force them to allow the surrounding community access....

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Voting closed 11

Didn't Scientology own this building at one point?

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Voting closed 5

See earlier comments

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Voting closed 7

I suspect this wall was left blank in anticipation of the neighboring lot (along Washington) being similarly developed eventually. That development would either share a wall with the hotel or block it from a few feet away. The hotel doesn't want to be in a position of having to redesign and rebuild that facade and any rooms that adjoin it. I think it is totally understandable from the hotel developer's perspective.

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Voting closed 17

Waldorf, meet Astoria.

Develop the neighboring lot.
Breach the walls to mate corridors of the two buildings and open a high-end hotel.
In a few decades, they can tear it all down and build a skyscraper with a blimp-docking station.

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Voting closed 8