BPDA ‘Eminent Domain’ Inquiries for Neighbors Bring about Potential Sale of Hotel Alexandra

By Seth Daniel

Once called a “festering wound” by many South-enders, the wound that is the generationally dilapidated Hotel Alexandra on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Washington Street could soon be healing.

The mostly-unused building with the grand, marble facade was the focus in recent months of a rare call by neighbors to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for an eminent domain taking to end its blighted state.

This week, BPDA Director Brian Golden said after some inquires by the BPDA regarding that status of the building and, perhaps, an eminent domain taking, the building was put on the market and two potential buyers have been identified by the Church of Scientology, which owns it.

Golden said they learned, according to the Church, that a sale was imminent.

“Our goal was first to engage and see if we could do anything to encourage them to take positive steps to encourage development,” said Golden. “We learned the building was up for sale and they are closing in on finalizing a sale with a purchaser. Our understanding is that right now they have narrowed the field of suitors for the building to two. Selecting one of them is imminent.

“Given the dynamics, it makes sense to us to see what the next month or two brings us with regard to a new owner,” continued Golden. “Once the new owner is identified, we’ll engage them immediately…Once we started making inquiries, the flow of information was quite extensive.”

Two outspoken critics of the building have been Carol Blair, president of the Chester Square Neighborhood Association, and Steven Fox, South End Forum moderator.

Both said it was a new and promising revelation.

“We are delighted to see movement on the goal of getting something done there that includes renovations or remodeling,” Fox said. “Anything is a step forward in our view…We’re certainly not going to let that parcel languish for much longer.”

Blair said it would be a very big move the property sold.

“I’m delighted to hear it,” she said. “It’s big time. If ever there is a corner piece, that is it. Something seems better than what is there. That’s not blanket approval, but we’re certainly ready, willing and eager to work with developers to make something happen there.”

Golden mentioned that he was surprised to hear Fox, Blair and the Forum call for eminent domain takings of the parcel during a meeting in September, as that property had never come up.

“In my 2.5 years as director, it’s never come up whatsoever,” he said. “Everybody goes by there and says something should be done with it, but it has stayed essentially the same since I started coming to the South End for high school in the 1980s.”

He said the BPDA is excited to see who might develop the parcel, one in which most believe is the lynchpin to unlocking further development south of Washington Street and along the rest of that corner.

“It should be used better than it is,” he said. “It has that grand facade and it calls attention…Hopefully we can be of assistance with the new owner when that person is identified and work to make that a very positive development.”

The Church of Scientology purchased the building some years back with the hope of potentially putting its headquarters there. That never materialized for reasons unknown and the Church has essentially been sitting on the property for years. The only business currently occupying the building is a wig store on the ground level.

Some have indicated it hasn’t been used as its original hotel use since perhaps the 1950s.

Representatives for the Church of Scientology were not immediately available for comment.

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