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Would-be redevelopers of crumbling former Roxbury hotel say they want to turn it back into a hotel after all

Rendering of proposed new hotel

Rendering of new hotel by CBT.

The developers who have been trying to do something with what's left of the Alexandra Hotel at Washington Street at Massachusetts Avenue for six years now have asked the BPDA for re-grant them permission to put up a 13-story hotel inside the original building's facade - after concluding it no longer made financial sense to build condos in the space.

In a filing last week, Jas Bhogal and Thomas Calus, who bought the decaying if historic old hotel from Scientologists, said the current financial market would make it difficult for them to build the 70 condos for which they won approval in 2022 on the site, which in addition to the Alexandra, contains a vacant lot that used to be home to a smaller building that was torn down before it could fall down.

The two had initially won approval in August, 2019, to build a modern boutique hotel inside the facade of the old building, but the pandemic struck just seven months later, making hotel construction a non-starter.

In their latest "notice of project change," they say:

he financial markets of 2022-2023 and the attendant interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve of 5.5% in 18 months has substantially impaired the available financing in the residential housing construction market. As a result, the residential project is not presently economically viable.

They are seeking permission to go back a page and put up the 156-room hotel approved by the BPDA and the Zoning Board of Appeal in 2019.

Alexandra Hotel filings.

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Comments

One could also argue that the location is not viable for a hotel.

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Voting closed 29

Huh? There already is a Residence Inn and an Hampton Inn within a few blocks of this proposed hotel. There also a good number of restaurants within walking distance. I assume that Boston City hospital and the BU Medical School creates demand for hotel rooms in the area.

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Voting closed 27

One could argue many things, but given that this project will likely run low 9 figures, you can bet that there's been extensive research by people who have bet correctly more than once before that says this location *is* viable.

The big bet here is going to turn on the land value. Putting up a 13-floor hotel is going to cost about the same whether it's in Farthest Mattapan or the Seaport, and if anything this will be more expensive because of preserving the facade. So the lever here is cheap land driving a lower finished cost per key that allows the operator to sell nice $150 rooms in a city where $300 is closer to the norm.

There's probably also a bet here that a really good rehabilitation of this building will exert a gravitational pull. Right now the derelict hulk functions as a sort of "here be dragons," and if you replace that with a big, shiny, 24-hour operation the whole vibe of the area will shift. Gentrification is not good for everybody, but it's certainly good for the property owners who get to ride the wave.

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Voting closed 38

Why not? Two blocks east are two hotels. Two blocks south is another hotel and it is 6 blocks east of Copley.

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Voting closed 19

Plenty of possible clientele for a hotel here.

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Voting closed 23

...up the street at Hynes. Not sure how many rooms, but I expect it will do very well.

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I'd argue that you are a sentient hot dog.

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Voting closed 17

Modern building inside the historic shell. I think it's cool. Penny Savings Bank example below.

https://ph.rdcpix.com/cf1d6cc894ac7acc5c511e7f4440...

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Voting closed 31

Not sure why, but my recollection growing up in the South End (I'll be 90 in October) was that Roxbury, for some reason, started at Northhampton Street. Just my thought!

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Voting closed 16

Love the modern conveniences like elevators, soundproof walls and ceilings and livable design. I also love looking up at my building and it’s interesting carved facade that is not a blinding and intimidating wall of glass.

More of these, please!!

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Voting closed 19

If accuracy is your goal then this is in the South End. The border of Roxbury, when incorporated into Boston in the 1800’s was near Melnea Cass.

This was always Boston.

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Voting closed 30

For a couple decades now, people have been telling me Mass. Ave. was the border.

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Voting closed 48

Trulia has the South End ending at Mass Ave. Redfin, on the other hand, has the South End going to Melnea Cass. The South End Zip code of 02118 is more like Redfin than Trulia.

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Voting closed 16

Just ask people who live on the right side of it.

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Voting closed 16

Just need to give that intersection a new neighborhood name - the Rox End.

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Voting closed 25

Ask a Roxbury person they say Roxbury. Ask a South Ender and they say South End. I was under the same impression as you but maybe we were just told that by a Roxbury person.

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Voting closed 17

The corner this is on is Roxbury. The 7Eleven across the street is the start of South End

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Voting closed 27

The boundary line between the City of Roxbury and the City of Boston from 1630 to 1870 was Northampton Street.

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Voting closed 26

… but this has always been my understanding as well. Realtors like to push the boundaries of the South End into Roxbury and Back Bay into the South End.

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Voting closed 25

These days that hotel would be considered in the South End by most, especially real estate agents, despite it being on that side of Mass Ave. I used to live near the corner of Columbus & Mass Ave (on the gas station side of Mass Ave). We qualified for a South End parking sticker but received mail labeled "Roxbury, MA" from time to time since the Post Office considered our side of the street to be Roxbury, even though we were still 02118 which covers most of the "traditional" South End.

Odd thing is there was South End permit parking on the block of Northampton behind us (the Darryl's/ Bob's block) but across the street from that, towards the Carter School, Northampton is Roxbury permit parking.

That said, when we moved to Mass Ave in 2007, people were promising that the Alexandra was going to be redeveloped soon, as it had been purchased by the Scientologists. So don't blame me for not holding my breath..

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Voting closed 17

… my zip code was the Roxbury zip code only because we were closer to the Roxbury post office than the JP post office. But I voted in JP elections. It’s the city that determines the boundary lines, not the post office.

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Voting closed 16

And the city has given that side of the street South End parking and it's also part of the South End Landmark District. I know that side of the street is technically Roxbury, but it's functionally the South End. Just ask people who live there.

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Voting closed 13

Mass Ave or Northampton? Both sides of Mass Ave are the South End. Northampton is the dividing line so it makes sense that one side is South End resident parking and the other is Roxbury resident parking.

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Voting closed 17

Now let's talk about the border between Dorchester and Mattapan

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Voting closed 14

The BPDA and Google map both call Mass Ave the dividing line between Roxbury and the South End.

https://www.bostonplans.org/getattachment/1b62865b-13e1-45da-84ed-e55895...

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Roxbury,+Boston,+MA/@42.324932,-71.0913038,14.25z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x89e37a2cdb8de087:0x4f33df75879c823!8m2!3d42.3125672!4d-71.0898796!16zL20vMDFncjAw?entry=ttu

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Voting closed 21

.

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Voting closed 22

Officially, this was always in Boston, not Roxbury. Here's a view of the official boundary marker:

The little squat thing, sticking up from the sidewalk under a puny, leafless tree, about halfway between the streetlight pole and the front of that Chevy, is the official boundary marker between Boston and Roxbury. It's been there for 201 years, since 1823. It's in front of the office of the First Student school bus garage, at 2000 Washington Street, between Thorndike St. and Melnea Cass Blvd., slightly closer to Thorndike. It's across the street from the tiered bleachers along the first base line of the ballfield in Ramsay Park.

(I had to go back to November 2020 in StreetView, because a parked car obstructs the view in the most recent image.)

If you zoom in closely enough on Google Maps (not StreetView), you can see that it's highlighted as a landmark, the Roxbury Boundary Stone.

Remember that Roxbury was a separate municipality from Boston until 1867. This stone was put up to mark the border, at least where it crosses Washington Street.

The actual border sort of zig-zagged across the old Boston Neck, in part because it was following small streams or inlets of water, that are no longer there. The boundary between Zip Codes 02118 [Boston/South End] and 02119 [Roxbury] follows the old municipal boundary pretty closely, at least between Tremont St. and Albany St. And if you go to regular Google Maps and type "02118" into the search box, that boundary will show up as a dotted red line.

(In 1823, it was still water north of Tremont and south of Albany, so at that time the precise boundary didn't matter in those areas.)

Because of those historic zigzags, it was always pretty difficult to tell where the boundary was. There was only one marker, the one on Washington St.

Various government agencies, real estate firms, and the like, have tried to redefine the boundary over the past century or so.

When the BRA created the South End Urban Renewal Area in 1965, they chose a boundary that roughly followed the route of the proposed Inner Belt highway, between the railroad tracks at Ruggles and the Southeast Expressway offramp at Mass. Ave. Although the highway was never built, there was a lot of land cleared for it, and then Melnea Cass Blvd. was laid out in the middle of that cleared swath of land.

In addition to the above sources of confusion, factor in the perceived differences associated with the two neighborhoods today. There are probably a lot of people who don't want to say they live in (or are building a hotel in) Roxbury; and there are probably some others who don't want to say they live in the South End.

And for much of the 20th century, the part of the South End around the corner of Mass. and Columbus was the heart of Boston's Black community, before they started moving south, into Roxbury itself.

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Voting closed 16

John Costello's post about the Boston annexation of Roxbury.)

If you ask Comcast, it's Roxbury (I'm blocks northeast of it and that's what's on my bill.)

If you ask most realtors, it's the South End, part of a definition that has been creeping southwestward for years.

If you go by community crowdsourcing, 75% of locals say that southwest of Mass Ave is Roxbury (though the sample is old).

If you go by resident parking permitting, it's the South End.

The neighborhood association it's located in (Chester Square) splits the difference, referring to the area as the South End/Lower Roxbury.

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Voting closed 16

This is an area whose identity is in flux. Residents can self identify but it’s good to be aware that different entities have their own agendas.
Makes for good small talk too.

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Voting closed 14

If it's a restaurant or shiny hotel, it's the South End. If it's a shooting in front of that restaurant or shiny hotel, it's Roxbury. At least that's how most news outlets and old-timers treat it.

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Voting closed 12

hilarious strategy, put the ball squarely in the cities court... you want more housing, we'll build it but you need to subsidise it otherwise we're putting in transient housing.

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Voting closed 16

.

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They'll decide it's no longer feasible to save the facade. Guessing.

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Voting closed 29

Why it they can find more money for a hotel but can't find the money for condos?

Condos are cheaper to build and the duration of the investment is shorter.

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more risk. They can sell the whole hotel to an operator vs running the risk of the housing market cooling and sitting on a property where they only sold out less than all of the units, and are possibly still responsible for the HOA if they don't hit a certain threshold of sales.

Large condo developments in mature market cycles are super risky.

Looking back to the last housing downturn, I know of several buildings that this happened to. It was a nightmare for both the developer and the early buyers who bought in 2007/2008. Different causes of the market crash/slow down than what will impact our futire, but if anyone beleives that the market will always go up, I have a condo development to sell you.

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Voting closed 13

Boston is notoriously undersupplied on hotel rooms. Talk to any meeting planner and they will tell you it's a great city to host an event (airport located inside the city, walkable everything etc.) *except* hotel rooms can be shockingly expensive even compared to NYC, SF, or other expensive cities.

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Voting closed 34

For a city desperately in need of additional revenues. Wu’s current proposal to cover our anticipated shortage is a joke.

Build it.

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Voting closed 17

Almost as much as Parcel 3 next to BPD HQ.

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Voting closed 18

Magoo just bought a new refrigerator and Magoo is using the card board box said refrigerator came in as a Magoo hangout. Magoo placed the card board box in Magoo’s living room and Magoo has outfitted it with pillows and snacks. Magoo calls his card board box hangout, “Magoo’s snuggle palace” and sometimes Mrs. Magoo will come in and snuggle. Magoo.

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Voting closed 20

?

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Voting closed 15

… life sized blow up doll.

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Based on the dumb comments each of them post my guess is it's Swirly.

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Mrs Magoo is his mommy.

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I always chuckle when a story is posted about this site several times a year for the past 40 years. Adam should add a story counter to any posting on this property.

I always end with the same reply when discussing construction starting...I'll believe it when I see it. Not holding my breath.

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Voting closed 30

Reminds me of the Sahara Syrian building on Shawmut Ave

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Just do SOMETHING with it! How long has this been going on?

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Voting closed 18