The comment period for the fast-moving Hotel Alexandra hotel proposal on Washington Street came to a close this week, and while many want the project to succeed, there are still some who have concerns about the height – which this week tacked on another story during design reviews.
The project includes saving the historic sandstone façade and building a larger, new building inside and behind it. It would currently stretch 90 feet above the existing 66-foot façade.
The host neighborhood, Chester Square Neighbors, submitted its letter on Monday, and while they approved of the project – the height is a serious concern.
In a letter signed by President Carol Blair, she wrote the association was excited to have such a good developer looking to create a new use such as a hotel, but she also said the architecture is going to have to really be on point or it will not fit.
“Three years ago, when we envisioned the restoration of The Alexandra as a boutique hotel, we did not foresee adding 90 feet to the existing 66-foot height, the total being three times the height of surrounding row houses,” read the letter. “If the new Alexandra is to tower above our rowhouses at this gateway to the South End and Roxbury, it should be a beacon, signaling the durable strength of our architecture and the innovating power of our diversity. For the new Alexandra to thrive at this historic place – now a congested crossroads – it will need 21st Century innovations to promote and facilitate car-free mobility. For the health and enjoyment of all, we need wide sidewalks with trees, benches, and public art. The streets here must be transformed so that walking, cycling, bus, and train offer the best ways to get around.”
In a more pointed letter, former South End Landmarks member Steve Jerome called for a re-thinking of the project’s height – looking at examples in the South End like the St. Cloud Hotel on Tremont.
“We diverge with those who would discard the South End Landmark District Standards and Criteria for the current design, an effrontery to those who labored over many years to create the South End Landmark District,” he wrote. “At that time, clear boundaries were set for the Landmark District. Select parcels like Tent City and the National Theater were set aside for exemption from the Standards and Criteria. The Hotel Alexandra was not such a parcel, and the current plans inappropriately deviate from the Standards and Criteria. Those present then recall the formerly dilapidated St. Cloud Hotel, which was rehabilitated in accordance with the Landmark District Standards and Criteria without overpowering roof additions, another model for what can be achieved at the Alexandra and Ivory Bean House site.”
He said that while he found the Lucas on Shawmut Avenue to be offensive, at least it was far away from the Victorian charm of the South End.
“Are the Alexandra developers taking the lead from ‘the Lucas,’ the recent desecration of P.C. Keely’s Holy Trinity Church on Shawmut Avenue?” he asked. “As egregious as that was, at least it stands, unlike the Alexandra, far away from the Landmark District’s signature row houses. At four stories, the Lucas’s roof addition is admittedly less excessive than the 142-foot proposal for the Hotel Alexandra, which will create a Boylston Street-like appearance altering the historic Victorian scale of the South End and Chester Square.”
Chester Square Neighbors said they want the project to succeed, but they are worried about the car-free situation that much occur there – as there is no parking for the hotel.
They wrote that there must be conversations with stakeholders like the City and the MBTA to transform all modes of transportation on what is a gateway corner.
“If the hotel’s Yelp reviews declare this is a great place to be car-free, then the hotel will most certainly recoup the investment,” read the letter. “We want to see this project succeed and have worked hard to assemble quality feedback with ideas to make The Alexandra and its surroundings an amazing place for everyone. I believe BPDA, MBTA and Alexandra Partners will lead a holistic transformation at this corner.”
The developers and the BPDA continue to meet with the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) regarding several factors, including noise and mitigation.
The review of the project was on a fast-track due to the purchase and sale agreement with the owner, the Church of Scientology, set to expire at the end of March. The developer and the BPDA had hoped to get the project on the BPDA Board agenda for March 14.