Citing a downturn in the hospitality industry expected to last until at least 2025, the team behind the redevelopment of the old Alexandra Hotel is now proposing condos, instead of the previously approved hotel, for the historic building located at Washington Street and Massachusetts Avenue.
“It would be inconceivable to build a hotel there for many years to come,” said Marc LaCasse, the attorney representing Alexandra Partners, during a virtual meeting sponsored by the city on Feb. 3.
Since the proposed 150-room boutique hotel was approved for the location by the Boston Planning & Development Agency board in March of 2019, the pandemic upended the world’s economy, with hospitality being one of the hardest hit industries. Alexandra Partners had even considered selling the property after investors pulled out of the proposed hotel, said La Casse, but the developer was eventually able to find financing for a residential project.
Dartagnan Brown, an architect on the project, said the height (13 stories) and massing of the 71,000 square-foot project would remain the same as what was previously proposed, and that the “historic façade, which underwent major scrutiny, will remain intact.”
Brown described the current proposal as “in some ways, a last resort to save the project.”
Of the proposed 76 condo units proposed for Alexandra Residences, 33 of them would be compact (eight studios, 24 one-bedrooms, and one two-bedroom unit), and 10 would be designated as affordable housing under the BPDA’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP).
The first-floor retail space is being designed to accommodate a restaurant or restaurant-café combo, said Thomas Calus, another member of the Alexandra Partners team.
“We would love to get a restaurant in there, and if we can find interested restauranteur, we’d like to work with them,” said Calus, adding that a couple of would-be restaurant operators have already expressed interest in the space.
If the developer can get zoning approval from the city next month, construction could start in about six months, said Calus and the project would then take around another 18 months to complete. “It’ll be no sooner than two years in the best case scenario,” he added.
Community benefits from the project remain unchanged from what was previously agreed upon, including a $100,000 donation to the Boston Transportation Department for bike racks in compliance with city guidelines, to “provide a mobility micro hub transit screen,” and to help fund local yet-to-be-determined transportation projects; a $35,000 donation to the Boston Parks and Recreation Department for improvements to Ramsay Park and Chester Square Park; a $10,000 donation to Washington Gateway Main Street to fund sidewalk cleaning; and $100,000 to the BPDA to create a community benefit fund to be distributed at the agency’s discretion.
“The community benefits remain the same, and all commitments remain the same,” said LaCasse. “Everything remains the same excerpt use of building that was previously approved.”
There was strong support overall for this current iteration of the proposed project among neighbors on hand for the meeting.
“Thank you for your patience and persistence in getting this done,” said Bud Larievy, the Washington Gateway Main Street board president, as well as a longtime South End resident, to members of the Alexandra Residences team.