Known as the former site of J. Pace & Sons, Maria’s Pastry and Living Luxury, the property next to the Chase Bank faces the Rose Kennedy Greenway and has remained dilapidated and vacant for most of the past decade.
A proposal from local developer William Caulder who lives in the North End neighborhood has emerged which would bring a 5-story 140 room Italian themed boutique hotel to the site. While the basic height and footprint is allowed “by right” the proposal includes neighborhood amenities designed to increase community benefits including an open-air pedestrian walkway connecting the Greenway to Cutillo Park. Project supporters believe that connecting the park and the Greenway will increase safety and security and improve its viability and functionality in conjunction with plans by the City to revitalize the park in 2022.
On Thursday, Sept. 30 the Boston Planning and Development Agency hosted an Impact Advisory Group meeting to discuss the Request for Supplemental Information.
According to Caulder an ongoing community discussion on the revitalization of the site has included numerous ideas for alternative uses including a nostalgic return of J. Pace & Sons and Maria’s Pastry. The reality is that those businesses closed and moved away years ago and will not be coming back.
“If the current plan fails to win approval, it is likely that the site will be developed “by right” meaning that the plan will be altered to conform to what is allowable under current zoning regulations,” said Caulder. “The building could have the same height with minor alterations to the footprint of the building and a loss of some of the planned features including beautifying Cross Street Plaza and improvements to Morton Street. Alternatively, it could be marketed and sold to another developer who may opt to maximize return on investment by leveraging the desire of regional and national chains to locate in the area.”
Caulder said he acquired the dormant property in the hopes that it could be revitalized while maintaining and protecting the unique neighborhood character of North End. Plans include two new restaurants that Caulder plans to “keep local” by working with North End restaurateurs.
Caulder said a Starbucks attempted to gain approval in the area in 2018 and failed in the face of local opposition from both residents and local business owners. Other attempts by national chains have met similar fates but it is expected that they will continue to try to get a foothold in the neighborhood. Caulder said he is fully committed to keeping out national chains.
“I live here and walk these streets every day,” said Caulder, “This is our neighborhood and I want to make sure that this site is developed in a way that benefits and enhances the character of the North End.”
IAG member Jason Aluia said while he was not yet in full support of the project he did appreciate a lot of the changes Caulder had made since the first filing with the BPDA.
“While I’m not going to say that I am in full support of the project, I do appreciate that we are getting very much near an activation of this blighted area,” said Aluia. “ I think the word blighted was talked about a lot when we talked about Cross Street. We know we have to realize the economic realities of building and developing a project in an area such as this by making sure the developer has the resources to do it. I’d like to hear more from the public but I think it does create a new welcoming entrance and that’s something we’ve been wanting and on that street for many years now. I also want to reiterate everyone’s concerns about Cutillo Park because Morton Street is just an awful public area. So just improving that alone is going to be something that is commendable and activating that whole street and that pocket park to make it something safe, is something that I appreciate.”