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Brookline approves hotel, senior housing at Circle Cinema site

A rendering of the Circle Cinema project shows the senior housing building (front) and hotel.National Development

After four years of debate and design changes, developers of the former Circle Cinema have received approval from Brookline officials to build a hotel and senior housing on the property, which straddles the border with Boston.

The $85 million development would include a 162-room hotel and 92 units of senior housing, along with 14,000 square feet of retail and 188 parking spaces, 92 below ground.

“By reinvesting in this area and creating two really beautiful buildings, with terrific landscaping and good access to the park, it is going to be what we hope to be [among] the first new buildings in Cleveland Circle,” said Ted Tye, managing partner of Newton-based National Development. “Cleveland Circle could use a good shot in the arm and these new buildings ... will really help to revitalize the area in every possible way.”

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The property consists of 2 acres located in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood in Boston and approximately half an acre located in Brookline. The site is currently occupied by Circle Cinema, which closed in 2008 after 68 years of operation, and an Applebee’s restaurant, which closed last month.

The project was given the green light by Brookline’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday, July 23, but still needs approval from Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal, which is set to meet in September. The Boston Redevelopment Authority approved revised plans for the project earlier this month.

Brookline zoning officials said the project must meet 24 conditions, including installing a bike lane and racks, sidewalks, and new street lights, and complying with both Brookline and Boston noise control regulations.

The developer must also fund landscaping or privacy screening for seven residences along Clinton Road. A total of $84,000 will be placed escrow so that the owners can be reimbursed.

Mark Gerber, who owns one of the houses on Clinton Road directly behind the project, expressed concerns about a loss of privacy. He said the hotel windows could face directly into his home.

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“It is going to be a nice project, I just think that they should have done the right thing in terms of screening goes,” Gerber said. “They are providing enough money for some screening but certainly not adequete screening.”

The development has gone through significant design changes over the four years it has been under review.

Over the years, the proposed size of the buildings has decreased and a courtyard driveway area increased to prevent traffic congestion. The residential units were changed to senior housing, addressing the community’s concerns of an influx of college students. The original plan also included office space.

“This is unusual because it is a property that sits in both communities,” said Tye. “It requires the approval of both Boston and Brookline, and that has been a lot of the complication, because there have been many constituencies with whom we have had to work in both communities.”

National Development is hoping to break ground on the project before the end of the year, starting with the demolition of the two original buildings. Construction is expected to take 20 months.


Cynthia Chen can be reached at cynthia.chen@globe.com.