A proposal to save Boston’s historic Alexandra Hotel and redevelop the property into a boutique hotel received unanimous approval Tuesday from the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal. The Alexandra Partners, the development team, plans to rehabilitate the long-neglected structure, saving the historic facade and developing the property into a hotel with more than 150 guest rooms, a ground-floor restaurant and rooftop amenity space.
Completed in 1875, the Alexandra Hotel was built by James and Caleb Walworth of the Walworth Manufacturing Company. Exemplifying the richly decorated Ruskinian subtype of the High Victorian Gothic style, its original façades are ornamented with pointed arches and colonettes as well as dogtooth and rosette-carved banding. The historic stone façade still remains despite significant fire and water damage to the rest of the structure.
The proposal received mixed reviews from the community throughout the process, as well as at the ZBA hearing. Faisa Sharif from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services was in support, saying, “It’s currently a deteriorating building and vacant parcel. We believe that the new use would actually increase economic activity on this corner that’s much needed.” She said there was an “extensive” community process that involved neighbors, community groups, and the developer. “We expect them to hold up commitments they made to the neighbors related to construction management, rodent control, issues related to the alley behind the property and in continued communication with the neighbors during the full construction process,” she added.
City Councilor Kim Janey was also in support of the project. “Despite the designation mishap early in the process, there has been engagement of Roxbury neighbors as well as South End neighbors,” she said, praising the development team for their willingness to listen and work with different stakeholders.
Several residents, including Luther Pinckney and owner of Prive Parking Boston Ricardo Louis, said that they are in support of the project as they would like to see something done with the deteriorating building and they believe that the project proponents have made a serious effort to work with the community on mitigating issues.
Others, like the Tenants’ Development Corporation and Connie Forbes, are not in favor of the project. A lawyer representing the Tenants’ Development Corporation said that the loading dock behind the hotel is a “serious safety issue” as it blocks handicapped access to the building at 632 Massachusetts Ave., which was opened by the Tenants’ Development Corporation. He also said there were concerns around traffic and parking, as well as height, density, and shadows.
Connie Forbes, a Roxbury resident, said she was concerned about the blank wall that faces Roxbury, and was upset that a mural was not allowed there. She also said that Roxbury has “intentionally” been left out of a lot of this process, and there have been “process and policies that have been violated to make this project happen.”
Brian O’Donnell, a Massachusetts Avenue resident, said he abuts the Hotel Alexandra and is concerned that not everyone affected has been properly informed throughout the process. “My concerns are even though I want to see the Alexandra Hotel renovated, I think this process is excessive,” he said. “It’s not really a boutique hotel. It’s got 156 rooms, three restaurants, and a roof-deck restaurant, which will create a lot of noise for the abutting neighbors.”
The plans previously received approval from the Board of Directors of the Boston Planning and Development Agency in March of 2019. Tuesday’s approval by the ZBA marks another important step forward in the public permitting process.
“Throughout the community process we have been encouraged by the overwhelming support we have received for our plan to rehabilitate and redevelop the Alexandra Hotel into a boutique hotel, preserving a landmark and bringing jobs and economic activity to both South End and Roxbury,” said Jas Bhogal of JB Ventures, LLC.
“This approval from the Boston ZBA reinforces what we have heard from Roxbury and South End neighbors and abutters at every stage of our planning process, that Boston wants to see a rebirth for a building that has been standing vacant for decades as a neighborhood eyesore,” added Thomas Calus, principal and founder of TCR Development. “We look forward to moving ahead with a plan to restore the Alexandra Hotel’s historic facade in order to preserve a piece of Boston history while also activating a street corner as a positive economic driver.”
“The revitalization of the Alexandra Hotel is vital to both the South End and Lower Roxbury communities,” said A.F. “Bud” Larievy, President of Washington Gateway Main Streets. “It will re-establish the intersection of Massachusetts Ave and Washington Street as the original gateway to Boston, as well as bring resources and development in the form of businesses, jobs for residents and training for BPS students in the culinary field. WGMS continues to support this project and looks forward to many opportunities it has to offer our greater community.”
long, this property has been a blight on the neighborhood,” said Will Krause, a
direct abutter of the project on Massachusetts Avenue. “I’m glad to see another
step forward in approving the proposal for this site. My kids and I walk by
here every day, and this project will improve both the safety and cleanliness
of our block, benefiting our own family and all our neighbors.”
The Alexandra Hotel redevelopment project team includes CBT Architects, LaCasse Law, LLC, Epsilon Associates, Inc. and Howard Stein Hudson.
This story includes reporting contributions from Lauren Bennet.