Boston’s Alexandra Hotel

*Updated 5/14/2020*

Scroll down for updates.

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.

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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?

 

Wollaston Station Renovation

Wollaston Station MBTA train tracks, with a brick wall on left, and the bright yellow line on the subway platform on the right.

Over the years, I’ve often written about my commute. Subway Stories grew out of the weirdness of riding the T.

So. My commute is about to get a bit more involved. I go to Wollaston Station and it’s about to undergo a significant renovation. The construction will make it accessible, according to NBC Boston.

The article says that there will also be new elevators, bathrooms, additional lighting and better stairways. Security will improve and the flooding problem will hopefully be eliminated. The renovations may start next month and could continue through June 2020.

The changes are long overdue and I’m glad they’re happening. But the timing has been a bit up in the air and still seems subject to change. Oh and the main issue, at least for me, is that the station is going to close for several years. Yup. Years.

While I was in the CVS near the station, people were talking about how they wondered if the closure would impact the number of people visiting the store.

Shuttle buses will replace the train between Wollaston and North Quincy stations. It probably won’t be that big of a deal, but will add some time to my commute in to Boston.

The third public meeting  [PDF] will take place Wednesday, June 21st, 6:30pm at the Central Middle School Auditorium. I’m not sure if I’ll be going yet, but I’m considering it. What about you?

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*Updated 9/17/2017*

Just read a Boston.com article stating that the closure will be in late December.

History Demolished & Disrespected: Wollaston Theatre

Wollaston Theatre

Back in 2007, I started writing about the Wollaston Theatre. Since Quincy is the City of Presidents, I wrongly thought that there would be a special appreciation and unique effort to restore this once lovely old movie house. I wrote about Wollaston Theatre again in 2008, 2009 and 2010. I hoped that things would end differently.

Silly me. What was I thinking? Of course money trumps everything else. The beloved Wolly was smashed to bits. The Change.org petition was a nice idea, but it was all to no avail.

No doubt owner Michael Fang, owner of the C-Mart supermarket chain, will be able to sell the land for a pretty penny. Probably another luxury apartment building will be built. Maybe condos.

Something most likely beyond the reach of most people instead of what could have been a wonderful community space. That seems to be the direction of things in Quincy. Many will soon be priced out.

Wollaston_Theatre_Demolished

I just took these pictures today, so my feelings are fresh. It was shocking to see nothing left. I am so disappointed. Wollaston Theatre is really gone.

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The Citgo Sign

Citgo Sign Boston

As I was thinking about writing a post this morning, I found this picture. I don’t remember if I blogged it before, but I do remember hearing recently that the sign might be taken down due to a change in ownership.

The Citgo sign is more than a sign. It’s a way to orient yourself as you make your way around the city. When you’ve been away, it’s a familiar sight that welcomes you back to Boston.

At night, the glow is beautiful. It’s synonymous with Kenmore Square. It’s one of those things that makes Boston, Boston. Like the gas tank on the Expressway. It’s iconic. What used to be just a sign has very much transformed into something else and I hope it will be preserved.

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To generate creative ideas, you have to start from an unusual place. But to explain those ideas, you have to connect them to something familiar.  ~ Adam Grant

The above quote from an article by Adam Grant has also resonated with me lately. I’m not sure if it directly relates to the status of the sign, but somehow they are connecting in my mind….