No Candlelight for Renters?

Are you enjoying all the cozy vibes this season with string lights and candlelight?

For those who own their residence, then it’s no problem. If you rent the place where you live, it might not be so easy. Burning candles is often prohibited in lease agreements.

I love the scents and soft light of candles. They are part of my daily routine when I do yoga, meditate or just want to relax. Especially this time of year when we’re losing daylight. Tomorrow is the winter solstice. Winter starts officially and we will have more hours of darkness than any other time of year. Creating our own light sources indoors is the best way to create hygge and embrace the season.

My first encounter with burning candles being prohibited was at my last apartment. Before signing the lease, I spoke with the owner of the property and negotiated an addendum allowing me to burn candles.

The next encounter I was not so lucky. It was around this time last year that I sold my mother’s house and rented her an apartment. Again, the lease did not allow burning candles. This time I was not able to negotiate anything. It might be the difference between renting an apartment in a smaller multi-family house from an individual versus an apartment in a large complex with hundreds of units and a corporate landlord.

Further, where my mom lives there had been a recent fire caused by a candle, which resulted in a lot of damage. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “Candle fires peak in December and January with 11 percent of candle fires in each of these months.”

Because of the dangers caused by candle burning, I can see why property owners want to prohibit the practice. According to Statista, there were more than 40 million housing units occupied by renters in this country last year. That’s a lot of people who are potentially having lifestyle restrictions.

I wonder about that fine line between a lifestyle choice and a religious and cultural practice. How often do landlords enforce this provision in a lease? When they enforce it, do they enforce it uniformly? At what point could this restriction result in religious discrimination?

Are people allowed to have birthday candles? If someone has a birthday party and they light candles and blow them out right away, that is different from someone burning several candles for a sustained period of time.

What if someone is lighting a menorah for Hanukkah? Or lighting the kinara for Kwanzaa? Not all candle burning is the same, so I wonder how do property owners decide. Maybe there is no actual enforcement, until there’s a fire and someone has to pay.

Boston’s Hotel Alexandra for Sale Again

Hotel Alexandra

Like that classic 90s jam by Portrait, here we go again. Boston’s Hotel Alexandra is up for sale.

As I mentioned in my post back in 2019, I’ve been following this property for decades. Whenever the lottery goes really high, I start having real estate fantasies about buying it if I won. With the Powerball jackpot now up to a billion dollars and Mega Millions not far behind, I’ve played a few times. Even won a few bucks! So I’m reinvesting my winnings and continue to try my luck.

Silence remains on the project website about construction starting on the most recent plan for development and I’m wishing for winning lottery numbers. So I started wondering what was going on. I searched and found an article from last month on The Boston Sun stating that Hotel Alexandra is now up for sale by Cushman & Wakefield. What?!?!

I emailed the Boston Planning & Development Agency project contact, Nick Carter, and asked if he knew anything. He replied, “I have not heard anything to that effect but I would also say that we often are not updated on things like this.”

Huh. So I dug a little deeper and found information on the Cushman & Wakefield website. It’s true! There is a post dated June 1, 2023, stating that they are marketing The Alexandra. See below.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Multi-Family Advisory Group is now marketing The Alexandra, a former luxury hotel primed for redevelopment in Boston’s thriving South End neighborhood. Approved plans for the redevelopment include a 70-unit condominium project with a gym, bike storage, rooftop terrace with adjoining amenity room and ground floor retail. The property is within minutes of some of the city’s top dining destinations including Toro, Flour Bakery & Café, and Barcelona Wine Bar.

Further information about the sale states, “The Alexandra is offered on an ‘as-is’ basis and without a formal asking price. Upon receipt of a signed confidentiality agreement, qualified investors will be provided with access to the offering memorandum and due diligence materials. Once investors have had an opportunity to review the offering materials and tour the property, C&W will schedule a ‘Call for Offers’.”

This is so very interesting! Now would I really go through with buying it if I won? I don’t know.

Toying with the idea is different than the reality of what this would mean day to day in taking on such a massive construction project. Especially one that seems doomed to fail. But then again, maybe Hotel Alexandra just hasn’t found the right owner yet. And I can’t help but dream.

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Photo Credit: Nina LaNegra

The Alexandra Hotel Reimagined Again

Alexandra Hotel

Here we go again. I wrote about Boston’s Alexandra Hotel back in January 2019. Then many updates to the post followed, because the situation with this property kept changing. As it has for the decades that I’ve been following it.

As expected, the pandemic didn’t make the proposed development of the property any easier. To me, it feels like this property has a purpose that hasn’t been found yet. With an owner that hasn’t been found yet. Because everything with it has been difficult for such a long time. When the purpose and owner are aligned, I would think things would flow easily.

But who knows? Maybe this next proposal will be it. A virtual public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 7, 2021, 6:30pm – 8:30pm. Also, the public may submit comments through Friday, September 17, 2021.

The last proposal for Alexandra Hotel was for a 150-room boutique hotel. Because the pandemic completely changed the hotel industry, that plan was scrapped. Now the intent envisions 106 residential condos. 71 of those units will be “Compact Units” that are a mix of studios and one bedrooms.

The last meeting I attended in person, so seeing this all play out on Zoom will probably be pretty wild. I’m planning to watch.

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Photo Credit: Nina LaNegra

Boston’s Alexandra Hotel

*7/19/2023  Update*

The Alexandra Hotel is for sale again. Read more here.

You know that specific period of time when lottery jackpots get higher and higher?

Frenzy reaches a fever pitch. Reporters ask random people in line buying lottery tickets what they would do if they win.  Most people mention that they would pay bills, buy a car, help their families, go on vacation, give to charity. Pretty normal stuff. Nothing too exciting or specific.

Maybe they have more detailed ideas in mind, but don’t want to share them. I would do all those too, but for about 30 years, I’ve had a very specific thing that I fantasized about doing.

I would buy the Alexandra Hotel on the corner of Washington Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. Then I would restore it. Live in it and run a Bed & Breakfast in it as well. My scones would be on the breakfast menu everyday!

I have never felt a more magnetic pull to a location than I did when I first noticed the old Alexandra Hotel building. Although, I did love the Wollaston Theatre too. But I never truly wanted to own it.

Since the 90s, I have failed to win the lottery, but I continued following the building and always thought something would be done. It’s a majestic presence that has been woefully neglected for such a long time.

When I learned that the Church of Scientology owned it, I thought that I would see construction. But it never happened. The blight remained. The church agreed to sell it eventually and there were several possible buyers. But the sales fell through.

Now there is a proposed renovation project and a possible buyer for the Alexandra Hotel. I read about this latest development just in time to attend a public meeting last night. It was a full house and the audience was lively, filled with many community members and city officials.

Andrew Wang of CBT Architects gave the presentation showing possible future plans for the hotel. Jas Bhogal of JB Ventures answered some questions on behalf of the investor group that currently has ownership of the proposed project.

Nina LaNegra and Bill Singleton of United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury, Faisa Sharif of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, Boston City Councilor Kim Janey, and her Community Relations Coordinator Saynab Maalin were also in attendance.

The project proposes to retain and restore the facade of the building, construct a new approximately 150 room, twelve story boutique hotel, with a restaurant and cafe on the ground floor, outdoor seating and a rooftop bar/restaurant.

The cost to restore the facade alone is 9 million dollars and right now the anticipated cost of the new building is 66 million dollars. Jas stated that the number of rooms is the minimum needed in order for the project to be “successful.” The rooms will be very small and they will need a variance from the zoning code for the proposed height.

Many issues were discussed and some key takeaways are below.

1) The project is not using historic tax credits, but there are still standards that need to be adhered to based on the historic nature of the building.

2) Ownership is currently private, but additional investors are anticipated to be added to the project. Right now ownership is not open to the public. Community members hope that they will have a chance to buy in and have ownership and participation when the project is complete.

3) Diversity in ownership is a concern and the community wants diversity for people hired to work on the project. Jas, who is Indian, mentioned that he is the diversity in ownership right now. Community members want to ensure that diversity includes Black people and includes women.

4) The Silver Line stop in front of the property may be moved slightly in order to allow for picking up and dropping off. There will be no designated parking area, but there will be valet service.

5) Right now no eminent domain is planned.

6) Neighbors are concerned that the height of the hotel could block the sun and cause shadows on their homes. There will be a shadow study.

7) Someone from the building and trades union was there and mentions that he hopes that the jobs offered will be good paying permanent union jobs. The sentiment was reiterated by Councilor Janey. There was discussion that the hotel union should be involved as well.

8) If everything goes according to plan, work will start this summer and will be finished by the spring of 2021.

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The comment period is open until January 23, 2019  February 13, 2019 and comments are encouraged.

It will be interesting to see if this will be the winning project to go forward and bring the Alexandra Hotel into the 21st century. I still love this building and have secretly believed that the reason none of the attempts to restore it worked were because I’m supposed to own it. Well, time will tell. I still have a lottery to win and it needs to be a big one.

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*Updated 12/14/2019*  When I first wrote this post, almost a year ago, construction was to have started this past summer. From what I know, it does not appear to have started. Things appear to be behind schedule. In October, The Boston Sun reported a “lawsuit has been filed by the Tenants Development Corporation (TDC) against the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) regarding their decision to approve the Hotel Alexandra rehabilitation project.”

As I mentioned before, this property is my obsession, so I will keep you updated!

*Updated 5/14/2020*  Since COVID-19 has brought most everything to a halt, including construction, I was curious what was happening with this project. The last I had read, there was ongoing litigation. According to a December 26, 2019 article in The Boston Sun, the parties reached a settlement. However, it’s unclear what’s happening with the project currently. The BPDA website has a question mark next to project phase.

*Updated 12/4/2020* It looks like the brakes are on this project and the property could be up for sale again, according to a September article in The Boston Sun.

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Photo Credit: Nina LaNegra

Quincy: Then & Now

Have you taken a look at some of the old pictures of Massachusetts available online? Digital Commonwealth is a treasure.

If you’re familiar with Quincy at all, you’ve probably been at this intersection in Wollaston. You’d be standing on Newport Avenue looking at Grandview Avenue on the left and Beale Street on the right.

I found the lower picture in the Quincy postcard collection, dated from 1903 – 1976. That’s quite a range of years, but based on the car on the right, I’m guessing it’s from the 1910s or 1920s. Maybe 1918?

As soon as I saw the old picture, I knew I had to take a new picture to compare it with. The upper picture I took this past week. Quite a difference! But you can definitely see that it’s the same place. Just about one hundred years apart. Pretty amazing.

It was shocking to see that the building on the right used to be a drug store. I think it’s a fabric store now.

Grandview used to be a dirt road and now so many trees have grown that it’s hard to see the house behind them. Also, it looks like it was a two-way street. Now it’s one-way. There were no traffic lights back then and way less cars.

What a difference a century makes! Wonder what it will look like in 2118?