Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com
Local developers are eying a run-down building near the East Boston waterfront for conversion into an affordable boutique hotel.
Members of the development team for the proposed Boston Loftel came before community members at the Feb. 27 meeting of the Eagle Hill Civic Association to share their proposal for the four-story brick warehouse building at 266 Border St., between Shaw’s Market and B.D.’s Discount.
The building currently has a laundromat on the first floor, storage on the second, and two vacant floors above, architect Patrick Sharkey told the residents, but the developers have a very different vision.
“It’s not like a Marriott or a Holiday Inn; it’s going to be a loft hotel because we’re taking advantage of the actual structure of the warehouse: the columns, the wood beams, and the high ceiling height,” Sharkey said. “So the idea is to make it a little hipper, a little boutique-y, a little special.”
The hotel would have 15 rooms on a typical floor, with seven standard guest rooms and eight suites containing small kitchenettes, Sharkey said. The developers would add a fifth floor, clad in copper sheeting, that would include an additional 15 rooms, for a total of 74 rooms, as well as adding an elevator and making improvements to the existing structure, Sharkey said.
“The building will be completely restored on the exterior,” Sharkey said. “The brick will be repaired and re-pointed; the windows will be replaced with all new insulated windows, new doors.''
The hotel would also include such amenities as a gymnasium and a business center. It would not offer entertainment or have a full restaurant, the developers said, though it would include a lounge where about 20 hotel guests could have a continental breakfast service or simple meals such as hamburgers and French fries.
The main entrance would be built on the north side of the building, not on Border Street. The developers would remove a one-story addition on the rear of the building, landscape the grounds, and build a parking lot with space for 20 vehicles.
Because the building is designated for warehouse and commercial use, the developers will require a variance to proceed. The team was scheduled to go before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Feb. 26 but delayed its presentation so it could address the community at the Eagle Hill meeting first.
It will return to the zoning board on May 21. If the project is able to secure all the necessary approvals from the city, Kara said, they could begin construction by the end of 2013.
Asked by City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina how many long-term jobs the hotel would provide, developer Keith Beardsley said there would be more than a dozen.
Resident Tina St. Gelais Kelly said the proposal was promising but expressed reservations about the owner of the proposed hotel, Paul Roiff, who also owns Mistral Bistro on Columbus Avenue in the Back Bay.
Kelly said Roiff bought a run-down multi-family home at 22 Princeton St., across the street from her home, about two years ago and made no improvements.
“My concern is that, why East Boston, why that neighborhood, when there’s so much going on along the other side of the water?” Kelly said. “It just seems odd to me.”
Sharkey said Roiff was “a bit of a pioneer” who is willing to take a chance on an affordable property in an up-and-coming area.
“He’s gambling on this,” Sharkey said. “Things are going to change down here, and he wants to be one of the first.”