Doyle’s Cafe, the cherished Jamaica Plain pub that closed in 2019 after a 137-year run, could be coming back with a new look, an updated menu ― and a condo complex around it.
At a meeting Thursday evening, a local developer laid out his vision for a new Doyle’s, re-created as part of a condominium project along Washington Street. Lee Goodman, whose Watermark Development has rehabbed a number of older buildings in and around Jamaica Plain, said he wants to restore — and in some ways improve ― the JP mainstay, which sold its liquor license and shut its doors about a year ago.
"There’s been a lot of change lately that people don’t want,” Goodman said, referring to the growing list of restaurants that have permanently gone dark during the COVID-19 pandemic. “And this can be restored in a way that fixes a lot of what we’re missing in JP.”
Goodman’s plan calls for redeveloping the site of Doyle’s and its parking lot, as well as an old two-family house next door that’s owned by Doyle’s former proprietors, the Burke family. On that lot, Goodman would build a five-story condo building, with 16 units, and a market on the ground floor. The low-slung Doyle’s building would remain, but a roof deck would be added up top. Another seven condos and parking spaces would be out back.
“That parking is important,” Goodman said. “Doyle’s was the kind of place where people brought their kids for a pizza, from all over that part of the city. One reason they could do that was it had a place to park.”
Inside, Goodman said, his goal is to re-create as much of the old pub’s ambiance as possible.
The long walnut bar remains, and will be restored, he said. The mural in the center room ― depicting longtime regulars and some of the many Boston pols known to stop through ― was purchased at auction by members of the Save Doyle’s Facebook group that sprung when news of the pub’s impending demise became known. But it, too, will restored and put back in place, Goodman said. The Kennedy Room, home to political fund-raisers and birthday parties alike, will be re-created. He also hopes to revive the bar’s role as a hub of the community, through events like the Doyle’s annual road race.
“That was just a very important day in JP,” said Goodman, a lifelong Jamaica Plain resident. “A lot of those things, we’re eager to restore as soon as possible.”
There will, however, be some changes, such as the roof deck. Goodman said Doyle’s could have used one even before the COVID-19 pandemic put a premium on outdoor space for restaurants. As for the restaurant fare, the new Doyle’s will be run by the operators of Forest Hills hot spot Brassica Kitchen + Cafe, who will bring their New American sensibility to the lineup of traditional pub food.
“I’ve heard Jay [chef Jeremy Kean] from Brassica talk about it as ‘a pizza and fried chicken joint,’ but it’s going to be pizza and fried chicken made by Jay from Brassica," Goodman said. "It’s going to be delicious, I’ve no doubt.”
All of this needs city approval, a process that began Thursday night with a community meeting in the Doyle’s parking lot. Goodman said he intends to file plans soon with the Boston Planning & Development Agency, and hopes to win its OK and start construction in about a year. It would open about 18 months later.
The project sits on a strip of Washington Street that’s in the midst of a wave of development, with large apartment and condo buildings rising from the Forest Hills Orange Line station towards Egleston Square. Some of those projects — replacing buildings far less noted than Doyle’s — have faced pushback in the neighborhood, some because they lack affordable housing, others for their sheer size.
In comparison, the Doyle’s plan is more modest in scale ― five stories high, 23 units, with a single-story existing building as the centerpiece. Pete Gori, a real estate broker who advised the Burke family on the deal, said it was glad to sell to a developer with deep experience in Jamaica Plain. The family also believes the plan will be well-received by former patrons, he said.
“We’re excited to see the community reaction,” Gori said. “We think this is a very thoughtful plan to redevelop the site while preserving the restaurant.”
There were multiple bids for the acre-plus site. Some had far larger development schemes. Some were derailed, or at least delayed, by the COVID-19 pandemic. Neither side of the deal would disclose a purchase price, and the sale won’t close until permitting is complete. But Goodman said he’s glad to have the chance to bring back a neighborhood institution.
“I think it’ll work out nicely,” he said.