By Seth Daniel
Alexandra Hotel developer Eric Hoagland appeared before the South End Forum on Tuesday night, Nov. 14, and appeared resolved to continue on with the process, but stressed that there are some serious challenges.
One of the key problems emerging right now, he said, is that the building is historic, and many of the City’s preservation groups are opposed to going higher.
“There is a resistance to more height,” he said. “That is what’s coming strongest and loudest from the City and I don’t want to confuse anyone that it’s coming from the BPDA (Boston Planning and Development Agency)…It’s more on the other side with the Historic Commission and Landmarks and that complicates things. It is a historic building, and we are in a historic district…The building is fragile. That building has survived a lot and is in a fragile state. The time it takes to get through the historic part of things and the reviews – I’m worried the fragility might supersede that…We do have pledges though from the other side of City government to help that, but that’s where we are…The height seems to be getting a pushback, and that’s a problem.”
Another challenge, he said, was that the building is smaller than one might think. While it looks big from the outside, it’s actually small inside.
However, Hoagland said he’s a patient developer and, despite being on a roller coaster of ups and downs the last several months with the project, he’s opened his mind to different ideas.
“We are exploring some long shots that are very, very creative ways of working to mitigate things,” he said. “I can’t go into them because each one is so cockamamie, but the City has done crazier things.”
Hoagland said the vacant lot next door is assumed to be part of the deal, and there are much more options there. He said creativity will be key.
One of the major problems, Hoagland said, is the renovation of the existing building. He said the land is valuable, but the building having to be restored zaps all the value.
“I’ve told the City that even if you got the property for free, you still couldn’t make a dime on it,” he said, adding that the due diligence is taking a lot longer than they expected.
Hoagland did say any development he would have on there would be a luxury apartment building rather than condos.
He did add that the community has been very, very supportive – noting that there is a “restlessness” that is encouraging.
“We have this feeling of restlessness there; people want to see something done there,” he said. “Nothing will happen at the Alexandra without the support of the community. It will not go forward without neighborhood support.”