Business

Boston Scientologists put Hotel Alexandra on market after long delay

WENDY MAEDA/GLOBE STAFF/FILE

The Hotel Alexandra.

After a yearslong delay, the Boston branch of the Church of Scientology will finally list for sale the decaying but historic building in the South End that it once hoped to convert into a new headquarters.

The church had previously declined to sell the five-story Hotel Alexandra, at the corner of Washington Street and Massachusetts Avenue, until it found a permanent site for a new headquarters. But spokesman Kevin Hall said the church decided to put the property up for sale while the real estate market is still strong

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“We just want to get it done,” Hall said. “We had hoped to fix it up faster. . . . Hopefully, [the buyer] will be a professional developer who has experience dealing with the city.”

Though it is in poor condition, numerous developers have been clamoring to bid on the Alexandra, which was built in 1875. Hall said the Scientologists several times tried to “swap” the Alexandra for another building, but failed.

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City officials cheered the news, saying refurbishment of the building is long overdue. For years, nearby residents and business owners had complained to City Hall that the church was sitting on the property, saying the boarded-up Alexandra was a drag on the neighborhood.

“This is a building that has a lot of history, and it's a really important gateway between the South End and Lower Roxbury,” Boston Redevelopment Authority spokesman Nick Martin said. “We would love to see it activated.”

Martin said the city would be open to a variety of uses for the structure.

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“Given how long the property has sat vacant or underutilized, we don’t want to be terribly proscriptive about it,” Martin said. At this point, he added, “anything would be better than nothing.”

The Boston branch of the Church of Scientology bought the Alexandra — along with the adjoining “Ivory Bean” row house, since demolished —for $4.5 million in 2008, promising to return the crumbling eyesore to its former glory after decades of neglect.

The church had hoped to fund the renovation with proceeds from the sale of its former headquarters on Beacon Street in the Back Bay. But the sale of that building took longer than expected and yielded $10.5 million in 2013 — far short of what the church needed to renovate the Alexandra. Scientology requires its regional chapters to be financially self-sufficient and forbids them from borrowing money.

The Boston branch is currently leasing temporary space in Quincy Center. Marc LaCasse, the church’s real estate attorney, expects it to reach out to some of the more than 50 developers who have expressed interest in the Alexandra. Hall added that the church has already received “much higher” offers on the building than the $5.5 million to $6 million estimate a developer gave to the Globe in July.

HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND

In the late 1800s, the late Gothic Hotel Alexandra was home to wealthy Bostonians, with unheard-of luxuries such as a primitive elevator powered by a giant piston connected to the city’s water main.

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter @DanielAdams86.
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