Sunday, April 22, 2018

Fort Point Channel -- It's Electric!

From Dave Brigham:

This is Boston's Fort Point Channel, seen from a section of the Harborwalk that skirts behind the first Boston Wharf Company building you see as you cross Summer Street into South Boston. I walked here recently with my son, Owen. Whereas our trips on the subway into Boston used to involve staying mostly underground, in recent months we've explored areas of the city that are new to him, and in which I haven't taken photos before.

Boston Wharf Co. was incorporated in 1836, after which the company filled in the swampy area east of downtown and eventually constructed wharves and manufacturing and storage buildings for a variety of uses, including sugar and molasses, according to this blog post. Check out that post for photos of the pretty cool neon sign the company erected at the entrance to the district, which, before it was turned over to hipsters and tech-dorks was an artist enclave.

The sheer number of Boston Wharf Company buildings in this area is astounding.

(Boston Wharf Co. medallion. There are scads of these around the Fort Point Channel neighborhood.)

Our brief trek on the Harbor Walk led to this building.

This is one of two buildings that General Electric plans to renovate as part of it new global headquarters. The company, which broke ground in Boston last May after leaving its longtime Connecticut HQ, will also construct a new building, approximately on the site of the old Channel club, where I saw bands including the Butthole Surfers, Buffalo Tom and the Dead Milkmen back in the '80s and '90s.

In the photo above you see the ugly side of the Necco Court bridge, which GE originally planned to tear down. After neighbors -- many of them artists who flocked to the Fort Point Channel area decades ago -- complained to the city, GE agreed to preserve the pedestrian walkway. To see artist renderings of the bridge, historic photos of the area and read about the overall project, check this link out.

(The bridge, right, is on Necco Court, so named for the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO), maker of Necco Wafers, Sweetheart Conversation Hearts, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mary Janes and Sky Bars. The company announced in March that it may shut down if it is unable to find a buyer.)

(I'm not sure whether this smaller bridge will be saved.)

I definitely want to return to Fort Point. Below are two random photos from the neighborhood.

(The backside of a building at the corner of A Street and Congress Street.)

(Located on the ground floor of the above building is Lucky's Lounge, which has a Rat Pack vibe. This entrance was locked.)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sitting On the Dock of the Bayside

From Dave Brigham:

Pay no attention to the fact that there's no man -- or woman, child or, well, building -- behind the Bayside Expo Center sign. OK, there is, but it's the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, not the exhibition hall where folks used to go see car shows, comic book conventions and electronics industry trade shows.

I'm pretty sure I went to Bayside once in the 27 years since moving to the Boston area. I don't recall what the event was, but I guess that doesn't matter, does it? I walked by the sign recently on a jaunt with my son, Owen, to check out the Calf Pasture Pumping Station on the nearby campus of UMass Boston (see March 29, 2018, "Udderly Monstrous"). We'd been in this area a few years ago while out riding the subway, and as he hunted for Pokemon I checked out the ongoing demolition of the old expo center.

Built in the 1960's as a shopping mall (!!!), the expo center site is located in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. The mall shuttered in the early '70s and the building sat vacant, I believe, until opening as an expo center in 1983.

Here's a picture of it in its heyday:

I stole this photo from here. Buy it if you like.

After suffering through a business slump brought on by the opening of the massive Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston and the continuing operations at the Hynes Convention Center, Bayside went into foreclosure in 2009. UMass Boston acquired the property -- 275,000 square feet of exhibition space and 20 acres of parking lots -- in early 2010. Since that time the school has worked hard to figure out a plan for the property.

A few years ago, when Boston was bidding for the 2024 Olympics, the city's plan called for an athletes village at the Bayside site. Then Boston withdrew its bid. In 2016 talk was that the New England Revolution -- the professional soccer team owned by New England Patriots boss Robert Kraft -- would build a stadium at the old Bayside site. That fell apart, too.

Last August, UMass Boston issued a request from developers. In it, the school conceptualized "a vision to transform the Bayside Property into a modern-day Harvard Square, New Balance/Boston Landing, Kenmore Square, MIT Volpe Center etc., projects; a mixed-use destination where a diverse community lives, learns and thrives, integrated with and complementary to the UMass Boston campus that optimizes its value and creates an oceanfront Boston neighborhood with academic, research, retail, residential, dining, entertainment and cultural uses, serving as a new gateway to UMass Boston and distinguish the University in the higher education marketplace as a unique, attractive urban university, all accomplished by leveraging public private partnerships that will facilitate a more rapid development of the Bayside."

Whew! That's a LOT of words. The university received 16 letters of intent from developers. In January, UMass announced plans to sell the site, which it acquired for $18.7 million out of foreclosure, for as much as $200 million. Financially strapped, the school would use the proceeds from a sale or longtime lease, to demolish a crumbling parking garage and for other capital improvements, per the Globe article.

Whatever happens at this site, it will significantly change an area of the city that has been underdeveloped for decades. Other projects in the surrounding area are in the works, or at least in the pipeline. Stay tuned....

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Tom Cruise Slept Here...Well, Maybe

T.C. Mapother V

I wonder if John Travolta, Leah Remini or Giovanni Ribisi ever set foot in this building?

Located at the corner of Washington Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston's South End neighborhood, the former Hotel Alexandra was most recently owned by the Boston outpost of the Church of Scientology. When the religious group that's definitely not a cult purchased the building in 2008, it was with the intention of turning the circa-1875 Gothic structure into its New England headquarters. The House That L. Ron Hubbard Financed With His Crazy Crazy Books and Tape Recordings would have included a cafe, chapel and bookstore open to the public, according to this article.

The Folks Who Love Tom Cruise More Than They Love Themselves decided to sell the building, however, after failing to raise the millions needed to renovate the building, which has suffered multiple fires over the years. The Sons and Daughters of Xenu reached an agreement last summer to sell the building to Eric Hoagland, the son of CVS Pharmacy founder Ralph Hoagland.

Hoagland's Common Management Group plans to restore the property, but stated in the Boston Globe that the deal could take a year to close.

When The Worshipers and Captors of John Travolta acquired the former hotel in 2008, they also purchased an attached brownstone known as the Ivory Bean. Why was it called the Ivory Bean? Your guess is as good as mine, but let's agree that as far as building nicknames go, Ivory Bean is nowhere near as cool as the Darth Vader Building.

(You can see the outline of the demolished Ivory Bean building on the side of the former Hotel Alexandra.)

While the upper floors of the Building That David Miscavige Hoped to Use As Yet Another Place to Belittle and Assault His Underlings have been vacant for decades, the ground floor is home to a wig and beauty shop.

(The once-grand entrance of the five-story Hotel Alexandra -- which was an early Boston example of an apartment-hotel catering to the well-heeled -- just looks stupid now.)

(Close up, you can see, despite the rust and grime, the details that make this building stand out.)

Will the Son of CVS be the savior of Hotel Alexandra that the Father of Diabetics couldn't be? Let's hope so. As you can see in the photo below, the building obviously used to be quite stunning. And the buildings around it deserve to see the former hotel shine again. Stay tuned....