Two weeks after announcing expansion plans, Hotel Commonwealth representatives, city officials and the Boston Redevelopment Authority met with members of the community Tuesday to talk about possible concerns regarding the proposals.
The plan, if approved, would add a seven-story building facing Fenway Park and Newbury Street immediately behind the hotel’s Kenmore Square location. It would have 94 guest rooms, more event space and 216 additional parking spots in the rear of the building.
“The demands indicate that the hotel would be able to support the additional rooms and meeting space,” said Hotel Commonwealth General Manager Adam Sperling. “The parking really is designed to support both of those [additions].”
Community members in attendance said they had mixed opinions of the project.
Pam Beale, president of the Kenmore Association, said the construction could only help an area of Boston already on the rise.
“It’s an under-utilized lot on a deadly, deserted, derelict kind of street [Kenmore Street], so to enliven [it] … is a great addition to Kenmore Square,” she said. “It’s always been a sort of dark, dreary street where cars get broken into all the time, so if we can have some positive activity [there, it can] … complement the ballpark and complement all the other things that are happening around the area.”
Matthew Brooks, representative of the Fenway Civic Association, said the hotel’s addition would benefit the Kenmore and Fenway area in the short-term future.
“It’s just a long-term concern that while this proposal might work now, in the future, it might become a handicap for doing something which could have then been much better for the neighborhood as a whole,” he said.
The building would have six floors above ground level, with one level partially below. The bottom four floors would be reserved for parking, while the top three would be utilized for guest rooms, according to plans presented at the meeting. The new structure would be connected to the existing hotel using an overhead pedestrian walkway.
The proposal comes less than a year after current hotel management bought Hotel Commonwealth from Boston University in December.
If the approval process with the BRA goes quickly, Sperling said construction could start by the summer of 2014 and the addition would be up and running from 15 to 18 months later.
Sperling said construction would not be a serious problem for Kenmore Square.
“Based on where the land is [and] where there will be the parking lot, I don’t think there will be any major disruption,” he said. “People have to determine for themselves … but based on where it is, it should be very minimal disruption.”
Several residents said the hotel addition could have many benefits for the Kenmore Square area.
“For the community, this could bring in a lot of business,” said Williams Davis, 65, resident of Boston. “It could bring money and jobs, but overall it will only benefit a few people who already are wealthy enough to afford staying there. In my eyes then, it just doesn’t add enough to the part of the community that needs help.”
Alex Yamamoto, 21, resident of Boston, said he agreed there would be some downfalls because of the construction, but not enough reasons to not expand.
“It seems like a very good idea for the area,” he said. “It could be a pretty big inconvenience while it’s being built, but that isn’t [a concern for] everybody. More people would benefit from more rooms, and the following money [as a result of the expansion] for the area than [those who] would be inconvenienced by it.”
Tommy Giammanco, 31, resident of Allston, said apart from traffic congestion during construction, the hotel addition was good news for Kenmore Square and the surrounding parts of Boston.
“It’s going to be loud and congested for a while, but I don’t see any other negative impact of this,” he said. “It’s a very well-run business that seems to care about the people in the city. Besides, Fenway is right next door. The noise difference isn’t anything someone couldn’t expect. Overall then, it might be a pain for a minute, but it’s good. It’s the city moving forward.”