By John Lynds
At its November meeting the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) approved the Hilton Garden Inn’s owners’ plans to expand the hotel. The hotel, located on the corner of McClellan Highway and Boardman Street in Orient Heights, will add an additional 84 hotel rooms and community meeting space on the left hand side of the hotel. WHile the addition will eliminate 25 parking spaces the BPDA approved revision will contain a total of 262 guest rooms and 321 off-street parking spaces for hotel guest.
“The project will yield a number of benefits for the East Boston neighborhood and the City of Boston as a whole, including: Smart Growth/Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), improved street and pedestrian environment, sustainable design/green building, increased employment opportunities, additional property taxes, and youth hospitality internships,” the BPDA wrote in their decision.
According to the project’s Impact Advisory Group member Mary Berninger the group asked the owner of the hotel, First Bristol Corp. President and CEO James Karam, to up the community donation be $35,000. When First Bristol first built the hotel the commented $75,000 to support neighborhood organizations like the Marty Pino Center, the Salesian Boys & Girls Club and programming and/or maintenance of Noyes Park. The IAG hopes with the increase First Bristol can expand donations to Zumix, Piers Park Sailing, the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen, Eastie Farms and Harborkeepers. Karam agreed to the request.
The IAG also secured internships for Eastie high schoolers interested in the hospitality or culinary fields. These internships would allow two high schoolers a year to get hands on experience working in these fields.
Karam also agreed to allow the new community space proposed as part of the expansion to be used by local community groups on a regular basis depending on scheduling of other events at the hotel.
Again, community members and IAG representatives asked Karam is the proposed expansion could be set back from Boardman Street instead of protruding out from the hotel. Karam said he would again make that request to the city’s design team but cautioned it might be rejected due to underground tanks located on the former industrial site. Karam said the city made him push his original design for the addition forward so it was flush with Boardman Street instead of setting the addition back.
First Bristol is planning to use a portion of the property that was to be used as either retail or restaurant space for the expansion. While First Bristol is still actively trying to attract a retail/restaurant use on the right side of the hotel, the will use the left side of the property to add the additional hotel rooms.
There were some rumors floating around town early on that First Bristol was abandoning its search for a restaurant and retail tenant. However, Karam said he is still committed to a retail/restaurant space on site and had a lease signed with Applebee’s but the deal fell through at the last minute. The only site being proposed for expansion is a designated pad that was constructed closer to the Marty Pino Center side of the hotel.
“Aside from being in the the hotel development business we are also develop shopping centers so we are very experienced in attracting retail to our sites,” said Karam. “The one knock we kept hearing about the retail/restaurant space is that it is depressed from the highway and not easily seen.”
With that said Karam still has hope a retail/restaurant space will soon come to the Hilton Garden Inn. Karam said First Bristol is using Eastern Retail, one of the premiere retail brokers in New England, to continue marketing the retail space.