By Seth Daniel
A potential sale of the blighted and dilapidated Hotel Alexandra by the Church of Scientology to at least two potential developers has fallen through this week, sources have indicated, in a blow to the neighborhood that erases a lot of positive energy that had been coming from the possible elimination of a 50-year eyesore.
Rumors have circulated over the last week that the sale – which had been in the works since last fall when Brian Golden of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) – contacted the Church on behalf of the neighborhood and indicated to them that the City would like to see a sale of the property. Since that time, good things had been happening, many reported.
It all fell through last week.
South End Forum Moderator Steve Fox broke the news to numerous neighborhood associations gathered at the Forum’s Tuesday meeting.
“The buyers for the Alexandra Hotel have withdrawn their bids,” he said. “The two bidders that were interested in the property had talks break down with the Church of Scientology…We have yet to hear final notice from the Church or final notice from the prospective buyers. Apparently the issue is over money on the part of the Church. (We understand) the market value of the property is substantially less than what they’re asking.”
It was believed that one of the developers pursuing the Alexandra, perhaps the leading bidder, was Cooper Development. That company, whose owner lives in the Ink Block, is also refurbishing a small condo project at 666 Massachusetts Ave. – a former funeral home.
Cooper Development did not return a call to the Sun for comment.
Through a spokesperson, Golden’s office said they are exploring “all options” – a very important choice of words given that the neighborhood has asked the BPDA to consider an eminent domain taking.
“The Boston Planning and Development Agency continues to believe that redeveloping the Hotel Alexandra site is in the best interest of the neighborhood, and is currently exploring all options on how to quickly unlock the potential of this area,” said Bonnie McGilpin of the BPDA.
The long-time spokesperson for the church, local attorney Marc LaCasse, also did not return a phone call from the Sun.
Fox said LaCasse’s services have been stopped by the Church, and he said the new spokesperson is believed to be former City Councilor Mike McCormack.
McCormack didn’t return a call to the Sun in time for publication, and the world headquarters of the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles did not want to comment on the local matter when called.
Fox said he believes one option to really consider is taking the Hotel by eminent domain. The property has been in deplorable shape for generations, despite having a beautiful facade and strong “bones.” It is believed that the hotel use was discontinued as long ago as the 1950s. Right now, a wig shop occupies the ground floor.
He said discussions have been going on over the last week between city councilors, neighborhood associations, the mayor’s office, Golden and other BPDA officials.
Fox said there might be some leverage in the coming months as the Church begins to develop its headquarters in Allston-Brighton.
“They are in the process of developing their new Church headquarters for New England in Allston-Brighton,” Fox said. “The BRA (BPDA) will control review of that project as well.”
Neighbors at the Forum meeting were exasperated upon hearing the news.
The idea was first put forward to Golden last fall at the Forum by Carol Blair, president of the Chester Square Area Neighborhood Association (CSANA).
Though it took him by surprise when Blair suggested it, it did spark some discussions between Golden and the Church representatives for the property. That ignited a sale process that seemed to be going well up until last week.