In a clash of opinions in Worcester Square, the Hotel Alexandra has prevailed, gaining the support of the neighborhood association by a vote of 7-4 – with several abstentions.
The Hotel Alexandra – a 150 room, 13-story tall redevelopment project on Washington Street – is wrapping up its review process in March. The developers have been shopping the project around to neighborhood associations and have already received measured support from the host organization, Chester Square. On Tuesday night, the abutting Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) was on tap, and by no means was there universal support.
Former President Fernando Requena said it was critical to lend support as he didn’t believe there would be another time when the building could be saved and re-used.
“We have waited too long to get this building redeveloped,” he said. “I’ve been here 40 years and I’ve been waiting to get this infamous building developed…When I was president we tried many things, but nothing ended up happening. I think it’s high time we do this. I think we need to support it. I don’t think we’ll get another opportunity.”
At the same time, current President George Stergios said he could not support the project, noting that it was too high and bent the Landmark District’s rules in too great a way.
“I wish I could have the Hite (TV) building back (on Washington Street),” he said. “We had New Boston Ventures come in and they wanted a certain height and abutters had concerns and we kind of pushed them aside because we wanted to see something done. The Hite Building is a small eyesore now, but the Hotel Alexandra will be a big eyesore…You’re not going to get the Hotel Alexandra. You’re getting a great big spike coming out of it….When you stand next to these buildings, they are just so tall.”
He said, as president, he has been burned too many times and he thinks this one will water down the Landmarks standards.
“It sets a precedent and it is in Landmarks,” he said. “If you allow this, what is Landmarks for? I can start putting vinyl windows in my home. The problem is they are paying way too much for this property, and the only way to make up for that is to go higher.”
Vice President Bob Minnocci said he lives close by and wants to see the project go through.
“I live six doors down from the site and would love to see it developed,” he said. “I think this is a good project. If there need to be tweaks, let’s make that happen.”
Mike Nelson said he supported the project because he likes the idea of the redevelopment, and he supports it being a hotel with public restaurants and public spaces.
“That corner is the appropriate place to go tall,” he said. “I like a roof top bar. If it’s condos, we don’t get to enjoy that view. With a hotel and a rooftop bar, we can all go there.”
In the end, WSANA voted to support the project, and endorse the list of stipulations laid out by Chester Square. The final vote was 7-4 with two abstaining.
•SATURDAY WORK PILOT OK’D
Bodwell Pines was approved by WSANA unanimously Tuesday night, 14-0, bucking the trend of South End neighborhoods universally opposing weekend work.
The Immaculate Conception Church project on Harrison Avenue has been under construction for about 18 months, and has been dubbed the Cosmopolitan. Attorney Marc LaCasse said Bodwell has been converting the large, open sanctuary into floors. At the moment, they have completed five of the seven floor plates, and are beginning the finishing work on the lower floors. Architects are trying to work out how to maneuver around the church’s arches on the ceiling right now so they can install the final floor plate.
While the project is on schedule, and they hope to start renting and occupying it by September, LaCasse said they wanted to get community support for a pilot program that would allow three Saturday construction days. The stipulation would be that they would only do interior work and there would be no demolition.
“My client would like to do two or three Saturdays on a pilot program and if they screw it up, you can take it away from them,” said LaCasse. “If we do it right and get your confidence, then we’ll do interior work quietly and we’ll continue.”
Residents said they agreed to do the pilot, but only because it would mean getting the project done earlier – particularly being able to move the scaffolding and the construction zone.
•Word has gotten out that a new restaurant is looking to locate in the old Subway shop on Harrison Avenue. WSANA residents said the restaurant would be a mix of food, similar to Andre’s Café and Caffe Quattro. The new lessees are expected to appear before WSANA at some point for support.
•The City is proposing to add more needle kiosk stations to the South End in the coming months and are looking for support from neighborhoods that want to host the large, red mailbox-looking structures. There is no place they are more interested in than WSANA. That is due to the exceptionally high volume to discarded needle pick-up requests in the areas of Worcester Square, East Springfield Street and Massachusetts Avenue.
Already, there is one kiosk on Northampton, and the Friends of Franklin Square have promoted the idea of putting another in their park.
The general sentiment among most members of WSANA was that trying out the kiosks might be a good step forward in trying to promote change in the area.
“We can keep complaining in meetings or we can give something a shot,” said Desi Murphy. “Maybe it will work and things will get better. We can only try.” •WSANA has voted to donate $1,000 to the parent organization of the Orchard Gardens K-8 School as part of their annual donation from proceeds reaped in the Christmas raffle. The Orchard Gardens has been subject to several tough situations due to being in the nexus of the opiate epidemic on Mass/Cass. Members of WSANA felt that it would be a good idea to try to help them in any way possible due to that tough draw.