The owner and operator of a new lodging house proposed for 507 Massachusetts Ave. was on hand for the March 1 virtual monthly meeting of Chester Square Neighbors (CSN) to discuss his plans for the business.
Armando Hernandez, the manager of record and a Shawmut Street resident, said he and his team had acquired the building, which is located next door to MIDA restaurant at 782 Tremont St., and its existing lodging house license. Hernandez was expected to take possession of the building on March 2, he said.
Hernandez described himself as a civil engineer who owns a construction business in Boston that has redeveloped four brownstones in the South End alone. He also owns 12 dwelling units, which he manages and rents out, he said.
The five-story building at 507 Massachusetts Ave. contains eight dwelling units, including two larger units. Each unit will have a kitchenette and bathroom, and also offer free wi-fi service.
“[The units] will be furnished and look like someone lives there,” said Hernandez,
The cost per night’s stay would be consistent with market prices while reflecting seasonality in the market. The rates would be calculated using the same software and methodology as Sonder – a predecessor of Airbnb which Hernandez described as “the original short-term opportunity for someone who couldn’t enter a long-term lease for financial reasons or for physical reasons” (i.e. they won’t be staying long). Airbnb could be the platform used to market the units, he added.
A smaller one-bedroom unit is expected to cost between $100 and $200 per night, said Hernandez, while “the two larger units would go for more.”
(Hernandez said he would like to return to CSN at a future date to discuss splitting each of the two larger units into two smaller units “that would be more affordable.”)
Asked who would likely stay at the lodging house, Hernandez said he expects it would attract Visiting Nurses and other medical professionals; family members visiting a relative receiving healthcare in the area; and business travelers, among other would-be patrons. Guests are expected to stay for both short (for a minimum of three nights) and extended periods (up to one year), he said.
Upon arrival, each guest would be required to fill out an intake form, as well as an application that would ask the length and reason for their stay, along with personal references, said Hernandez.
Management would use software to track guests’ comings and goings, he added, and the software would also allow management to automatically change keycards in response to guest turnover.
Check-in for guests is between 2 and 8 p.m., and checkout is at 11 a.m. daily, said Hernandez, while between the hours of 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. will be designated as “quiet hours.”
Guests will not be able to bring non-guests to their rooms, he said, and parties in rooms will also be prohibited.
“The rules are still being drafted, “but [guests] would go there and go to sleep,” said Hernandez. “I’m not even sure guests will be able to use the backyard.”
When operations at the lodging house get underway, all guests would meet an employee upon checking in, said Hernandez, “and as it progresses, we’ll figure out if that’s necessary or not.”
A lodging house had operated at 507 Massachusetts Ave. “for a long time” and was only vacated in the last few months during the property transfer to Hernandez, said Sean Regan, his attorney.
“The building has been in disrepair for some time, and there are a number of issues we hope to improve,” said Regan.
While the building is structurally sound, it isn’t currently habitable, with outdated electrical and plumbing; a heating system that’s only partially operational; and a rear fire escape that hasn’t been inspected in “many years,” said Hernandez.
The building, which has been vacant for around three months, is now “full of rats” and packed with “mountains of trash” said Hernandez, so the first step will be a “cosmetic renovation.”
The planned renovation of the building will include repainting and preserving the existing structure, he said, as well as renovating the individual units.
The exterior of the building will be restored to mirror the exterior of 511 Massachusetts Ave., said Hernandez, which was built by the same architect. (Hernandez said he expects to file an application for this work with the Boston Landmarks Commission in the near future.)
Inside, cameras; “smart” smoke detectors; new emergency lights; a fire alarm linked directly to the Boston Fire Department; a sprinkler system; and waterflow sensors, which can be used to detect and shut off leaks via cellphone, will be installed, said Hernandez.
“We can’t put a camera inside the alley, but the building will have cameras all over the place – in the front, back, and the alley,” he added.
A management office, measuring around 9-by-11 feet, will be created in the ell at the rear of the structure, said Hernandez, which can be accessed through the alley or the garden-level basement. (A full-time property manager, who lives locally, will work out of the office, added Hernandez.)
Like other area lodging houses, 507 Massachusetts Ave, would offer no on-site parking accommodations, said Hernandez.
Hernandez said he expects the entire renovation job will be “very light” and take between three and six months to complete.
Meanwhile, Hernandez said he would be willing to sign a “good neighbor” agreement drafted by the Claremont Neighborhood Association.
Hernandez also said he would like to be part of Chester Square Neighbors and engage in all of the group’s activities.
“I want to be part of the neighborhood,” he said.
Carol Blair, president of CSN, told Hernandez she would get back to him with the group’s thoughts on his proposal.