The Boston Planning & Development Agency held its first public meeting for the proposed Stanhope Hotel virtually on May 5.
HN Gorin, a Boston family-owned real estate company, intends to redevelop the Red Lantern building at 39 Stanhope St. in the Back Bay into a new, 300-plus-key hotel with on-site amenities for guests, including serving food and breakfast service, limited meeting space, laundry ,and a fitness center. The applicant filed a Letter of Intent with the BPDA on Sept. 11, 2019, and subsequently filed a Project Notification Form on April 6 of this year for the proposed project.
The new hotel would climb 21 stories, plus mechanicals, or just over 250 feet, said Harry Wheeler, a principal with the Boston architectural firm, Group One Partners, while construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months after the completion of the permitting process. (The Friendly Toast building won’t be included in the project, he added.)
“It will take many months to get through Article 80 process, which will also determine street closures,” said Wheeler. “The street closings and start date have yet to be determined. This is the first public hearing. We have a ways to go, and I’m sure we’ll have many more of these.”
The project team has explored a “variety of options” with the BPDA, the Boston Landmarks Commission, and the Boston Preservation Alliance, said Wheeler, to retain the character of not only the Red Lantern building, but also of Stanhope Street itself.
They are committed to maintaining the Red Lantern façade and integrating it into the new building, said Wheeler, and there would be a 5-foot setback at the new balcony above the Red Lantern façade, as well as a 10-foot setback at the recess and another 5-foot setback at the body of the building.
At the city’s request, the development team will be working with the Boston Transportation Department, which is exploring an initiative to permanently pedestrianize and remove vehicular traffic from this section of Stanhope Street, added Wheeler.
Proposed hotel amenities include a public area on the roofdeck, with food and beverage service for hotel guests, and an outside terrace area, said Wheeler, while a ground-level retail space, which could accommodate a restaurant, would be located adjacent to the 1,000 square-foot hotel lobby
Food-and-beverage service will be provided on-site for guests, said Wheeler, although it’s not clear whether this would be offered in-house or via a third party (i.e. a ground-floor restaurant operator). The fitness center and meeting space would be located on the hotel’s second story, he added.
The new building would cast no shadows on Trinity Church or Copley Plaza, said Wheeler, while a wind study, which would look at the effects on Frieda Garcia Park, is also in the works.
Rosalind Gorin, president of HN Gorin, which has owned the project site for between 30 and 40 years, said the hotel would be a “joint venture” with MasterWorks, the New York-based hotel group that owns Club Quarters, which is designed for business and mid-level management visitors.
“It won’t be a glamorous, high-end hotel,” said Gorin. “It will be a more accessible hotel. It will be affordable compared to other hotels, and very suitable for tourists, people’s guests, or weekend tourists.”
Cameron Merrill, an attorney representing the trustees of the Albert A. Pope Condominium, which is located kitty-corner to the project site, expressed concern that the new hotel would cause additional congestion in front of their building; in the adjacent alley, which is also used by the nearby Post Office; and at Cahner Place – a private way, which, he said, “is already backed up as it’s used as a loading zone.”
Added Merrill, “We want a more developed plan so that it can work without disruption to building and neighborhood.”
Sue Prindle, chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay’s Architectural Commission, said she loves the design, which will feature “sculpted corner” and grid and punch-window patterning on the upper levels to complement the architecture of nearby buildings.
Allison Frazee, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, voiced her support for the proposal, especially for the effort to preserve the one-time stables represented by the Red Lantern façade.
“We don’t always support façade projects – that’s true,” said Frazee. “But given this specific site and specific situation, we think a carefully preserved façade is the best solution here, and we think it’s the right thing for the neighborhood.”
Likewise, Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president and executive director of the Back Bay Association, said she was pleased to see that the façade would be preserved.
“I think this is going to be a great addition to Stanhope Street,” she said. “I think this building is going to be terrific. I love the way the top part of the building integrates with the bottom part.”
In contrast, Ian Webb balked at the proposed preservation of the façade, which he described as a “highly modified” part of a wall that contains about “20-percent new brick,” and which hadn’t been presented before to the Impact Advisory Group for the project.
“It will be a recreation of how the wall was once upon a time, rather than a preservation,” said Webb.
The BPDA’s public comment period for the proposed project ends on Monday, May 23, and can be submitted online at http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/stanhope-hotel.