By Seth Daniel
In his first, much-anticipated appearance before the South End neighborhood, new Alexandra Hotel owner Eric Hoagland, of Cambridge, said he hoped to make the building proud once more.
South End Forum Moderator Steve Fox helped to bring Hoagland to the Forum meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7, for an initial meeting with the neighborhood – despite Hoagland not yet owning the building outright or having specific plans.
That said, the short introduction was an icebreaker for many in the room who hoped to know the intentions of the Cambridge developer, who is making his first stab at development in Boston with the old hotel. Hoagland said he has a purchase and sale agreement with the Church of Scientology and hopes to be successful on a site that many have failed to develop after it having been mostly vacant for generations.
“It’s a proud building and I think I can make it proud again,” Hoagland told the standing-room-only crowd. “There’s a lot of tension on it. It has to be restored. I’m putting my name and reputation on the line.”
Hoagland is the son of the founder of the CVS Pharmacy and he attended Harvard University, but he said despite his parents’ success, he has made his own way.
He is currently a developer in Cambridge, and a landlord. He said he strives to be the best landlord possible and has become pretty popular as a landlord in Cambridge. He also said the City Council has called him a textbook example of a developer who works well with the community to mold development projects.
“I’m new to Boston,” he said. “It’s new ground for me. I predominately develop residential property and I’m a landlord and a popular landlord in Cambridge. I’ve never sold a project. I’m a buy and hold developer. I’m not a flipper. My goal has always been to hold on to the real estate. I enjoy being a steward of the land. That’s what I enjoy.”
Brian Golden, director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), told the forum that he believes Hoagland can be successful on what is a very complex project involving rehabilitation of a long-vacant structure.
“Right now, yes I think he can (be successful) for a variety of reasons,” he said. “First, he’s a really experienced developer in an environment not known for being easy to develop real estate. Cambridge is not an easy place to develop. Cambridge frankly has probably prepared him well for the regulatory process and also to work with a very sophisticated neighborhood that understands development.”
Golden said Hoagland has been in to visit with the BPDA already, and Golden said he isn’t worried that the closing period has been announced as taking one year.
“It’s a complicated project and many have failed, so I think he is trying to control expectations about the length of time and be sensitive that this is complicated,” said Golden.