The fate of the redevelopment of Hotel Alexandra is again hanging in the balance with the historic building now listed on the market for an unspecified asking price.
Cushman & Wakefield, a Chicago-based global commercial real-estate development firm, is now offering for the sale the long-neglected building located at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Washington Street at 1767-1796 Washington St.
According to Cushman & Wakefield, “The Alexandra is being offered without a formal asking price. Upon receipt of a signed Confidentiality Agreement, investors will be provided with access to due diligence materials via The Multifamily System website. Once investors have had an opportunity to review the offering materials and tour the property, Cushman & Wakefield will schedule a ‘Call for Offers.’”
The five-story, late Gothic building, with its sandstone façade and cast-iron details, was built in 1875 as a residential hotel by Caleb Walworth, one of the Walworth Brothers who founded The Walworth Manufacturing Company, which helped pioneer steam technology in the late 19th century. It remained a desirable address until 1900 when a new elevated electric train began running past its doors, beginning the Hotel Alexandra’s slow decline throughout the 20th century.
The building had sat mostly vacant for more than 30 years (except for a longstanding retail tenant on the ground level) until 2008, when it was purchased, along with the historic brownstone next door known as the ‘Ivory Bean,’ for $4.5 million by the Church of Scientology. The Scientologists planned to make the properties their new headquarters, but that plan was dashed in 2011 when they were forced to demolish the Ivory Bean building after bricks from its crumbling façade fell to the sidewalk.
After the Church of Scientology was unable to raise the estimated $17 million necessary to restore the Hotel Alexandra, the building was reportedly purchased in 2018 for $11 million by Alexandra, Partners, LLC.
A 10-story, 158-room boutique hotel, which would have far exceeded the 70-foot height limit for new construction in the South End Landmark District, was approved for the location by the Boston Planning & Development Agency board in March of 2019, but that plan was scuttled when the pandemic struck.
The developer said they subsequently considered selling the building after investors pulled out of the project, but instead the project was reimagined as “Alexandra Residences,” a 13-story, mixed-use development with ground floor restaurant and café space, a rooftop level bar/restaurant, and around 70 condo units. The South End Landmarks District Commission (SELDC) approved this latest iteration of the project on Oct. 30, 2019, and then, the BPDA board approved it on Oct. 14, 2021. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeal also granted a change in occupancy for the project to a multifamily residential use with a commercial/restaurant use on the ground floor and the restoration of the existing historic façade on July 12 of last year.
Lloyd Fillion, a 45-year resident of the Roxbury side of Massachusetts Avenue, is quick to point out that the Hotel Alexandra is actually located in Roxbury, however, since it sits on his side of Massachusetts Avenue.
“It’s critical that people realize that the Roxbury Neighborhood Council has been mandated a role in planning, reviewing, commenting on, and approving or not approving development proposals in Roxbury… and that Mass Ave is the dividing line between the South End and Roxbury,” said Fillion.
As for Alexandra Partners’ decision to sell the building at this time, their attorney, Marc LaCasse said, ““Like elsewhere in the city and state and across the nation, housing starts have stalled for the same reasons everywhere. Interest rates have spiked 5 percent from last year into this year. Lenders are far more skittish. Regional bank failures didn’t help, and rising construction materials and construction costs compounded everything as well.”
To salvage the project now will take “a multi-pronged effort to find the right combination of partners or a buyer to acquire the property and develop it as approved,” said LaCasse.