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Developers win approval for latest plans to convert what's left of a historic hotel at Mass. Ave. and Washington Street into a condo building

The Zoning Board of Appeal today unanimously approved developers' plans to retain the shell of the former Alexandra Hotel on the Roxbury/South End line as cladding for a new 13-story condo building.

Under the latest proposal by developers Jas Bhogal and Thomas Calus for both the old hotel and the neighboring parcel where the Ivory Beane building used to be, the new structure will have 70 condos, rather than the 76 they had earlier proposed. They reduced the number of "compact" units - smaller than normally allowed under city zoning codes - from 33 to 19. The number of units they'll sell as affordable will remain at 10.

When Bhogal and Calus bought the long abandoned building from the Church of Scientology in 2018, they proposed using the facade as a shell for a boutique hotel. But those plans foundered with the arrival of the pandemic and they proposed condos instead.

City Councilors Frank Baker, Tania Fernandes Anderson and Michael Flaherty supported the latest iteration of the condo plans today, as did state Rep. Jon Santiago of the South End. Santiago said more housing is just what the area needs and that the new Alexandra would be the herald of a revived Washington Street into Nubian Square.

Also supporting the proposal: Steve Fox of the South End Forum, who agreed with Santiago: "This will bring residential ownership opportunities to the South End, which are really missing, which we desperately, desperately need."

However, several Roxbury residents opposed the proposal, saying that besides being an example of the South End claiming something that is really in Roxbury - which they said meant Roxbury residents were not included in earlier discussions - the building would tower over the area. And they noted it would have no parking. They called for the whole project to go back before the BPDA for a new public-hearing process, because the change from hotel rooms to condos was not a minor change.

Board Chairwoman Christine Araujo addressed the neighborhood line issue: "You should take up the conversation with the BPDA and the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services about what is Roxbury and what is the South End and what is that middle area," but it's not a matter for the zoning board, she said.

Board Chairwoman Christine Araujo said

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Comments

Can the city impose a requirement that the developer actually develop within a reasonable period of time, or else pay a large fine to the city?

Also, this is the South End. Any map of pre-annexation Boston and Roxbury will confirm this.

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Due to supply chain issues. Also are you advocating for less for for unions?

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Not sure what unions have to do with any of this.

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Yeah historically this spot was in the swampy no-man's-land between Roxbury and Boston. It wasn't part of the South End until later, but it's never been part of Roxbury.

As for towering, 35 Northampton St. is a block away and it's more than twice as tall as this, 29 stories. The height is barely noticeable from the street.

Let's just get this done already.

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Voting closed 41

I'll admit I'm not 100% sure on this specific case, but the city's drawn-out approval process, which requires people to beg for variances to get anything done, and usually winds up with Christine Araujo demanding fewer homes and more car storage, is a major cause of development delays.

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Voting closed 22

In any case, this was a large enough project that it had to go through the BPDA first, and that takes a lot longer than a single zoning-board hearing.

And this isn't the only hotel proposal that got derailed by Covid-19, see this Kneeland Street condo project that started as a hotel.

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Two years, I think. Developers can ask for extensions, although the board does get tired of repeated requests for them.

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Pictures with birds preferred

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Alexandra rendering

That's from today's hearing. Here's a larger version. It's from when the hotel proposal was approved. It looks pretty similar to the one above, though. I guess the architect prefers clouds to birds.

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"However, several Roxbury residents opposed the proposal, saying that besides being an example of the South End claiming something that is really in Roxbury - which they said meant Roxbury residents were not included in earlier discussions - the building would tower over the area."

Would they prefer an abandoned building and a vacant lot?!

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Voting closed 25

Not sure how they were 'not included' - BPDA meetings are publicly advertised and open to everyone.

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Roxbury starts, despite what realtors say, at Northampton Street.

That was the former dividing line between the City of Boston and the Town / City of Roxbury.

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As we have all come to expect here is the quarterly story of this property being developed. What is this, thirty years now, maybe longer??

I say the same thing every time this story comes up...I will believe it when I see shovels in the ground.

Check back here three months from now for the latest version.

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