The Boston Licensing Board decides tomorrow whether to let the 'Quin House, a $25-million update of the decaying Algonquin Club at 217 Commonwealth Ave., double its licensed capacity as it nears completion of renovations that include a gym, new restaurants bars and lounges and private guest quarters, all of which, unlike the original 19th century club, will not be limited to Brahmins, but to anybody exciting enough to merit an invitation to join - with enough cash on hand for a membership.
Annual membership rates will range from $2,000 a year for under-35 leaders, creators, innovators, rising stars and "wild cards" with that 21st-century It-Girl quality that you just know when you see it, rising to $4,000 a year for people over 50. There are also initiation fees ranging from $1,250 to $4,000. But: Go-getters who work in the arts, civics or the non-profit sector and who make under $150,000 a year, can get in for just $500 a year, plus a $250 initiation fee.
The request to expand capacity comes not from additions to the building but from renovations that restored interior space that could no longer be used as the building decayed, club attorney Patricia Malone said. The board tomorrow will consider increasing maximum capacity of the building to 962 people. The initial application requested a capacity of 1,350, but Malone said the higher number would likely require a new public-hearing process first.
Edgerley's Hexagon Properties brought the decrepit club between Exeter and Fairfield streets in 2018 after an uproar over her original plans to turn an 11-story office building at Comm. Ave. and Berkeley Street into a social club. After buying the Algonquin Club, designed by McKim, Mead and White and opened in the 1880s, Hexagon won city approval to turn the office building into nine condos.
Edgerley's proposal for the Algonquin Club - Calvin Coolidge was a member - initially raised neighborhood ire as well, mainly because of a proposal for a roof deck. But Edgerley and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay eventually negotiated a "good neighbor agreement" covering everything from trash and noise to parking and numerous Back Bay residents took time out of their busy schedules today to tell the licensing board what a grand neighbor the club has been even before it's opened and how wonderful they expect it to be once members do start filing in the front door.
One nearby resident, Irene Olsen, even praised the construction workers who have been going in and out of the building for two years as being exceptionally considerate of the neighborhood. "There hasn't been any noise," she said. Another nearby resident, Carol Lindsay, agreed and said the club will bring the sort of liveliness to the area that Jane Jacobs wrote is the hallmark of good urban life.
Another nearby resident, Dr. Aneesh Singhal, praised the careful vetting the 'Quin staff has done of impending members. Coupled with the renovations, this has put him at ease: "I have no doubt this will be glorious addition to our beloved city."
Laurie Noble also praised the renovation work and said Sandy and Paul Edgerley had proven "wonderful role models" in this "age of contention and hostility" of how to create consensus and alliances to get things done. She said the club will be a benefit to "the entire city of Boston," but, of course, especially to the Back Bay.
"We are so proud to have them as neighbors," said Cynthia Danforth, a longtime technology consultant who said Edgerley's commitment to extensive use of technology in the project shows her commitment to uphold the good-neighbor agreement.
Nationally known event planner Bryan Rafanelli, whose office is nearby and who was signed up as one of the club's first members, said the 'Quin's general manager, Matthias Kiehm, is "global expert in hospital and understands how to run a property like this." He has previously worked in top management at the Ritz in Paris and at Four Seasons hotels in Boston, Los Angeles and Egypt.
Carol Fulp marveled that club membership reflects "every generation" and ethnic diversity and culture. The 'Quin, she said, "represents the new Boston."
Cathy Minehan said it's good Edgerley bought the old Algonquin Club when she did, because its continued decline and fall otherwise would have had "unfortunate repercussions for the entire Back Bay."