When the Midtown Hotel — then the Midtown Motor Inn — opened in 1961 on the edge of Back Bay, former mayor John Collins and former governor John Volpe were there to cut the ribbon, celebrating the city’s most modern inn. Since then, little has changed at the white-brick building on Huntington Avenue. But now change is on the way, as developing company National Development looks to raze the hotel, along with a building at 1 Cumberland St., and build a 10-story apartment building in its place.
National Development, the Newton-based company responsible for a number of developments in the Greater Boston area, signed a 99-year ground lease with the First Church of Christ, Scientist in March 2020. The developer submitted its initial plans for the new apartment complex, as well as modifications to the sidewalk and streetscape, to the Boston Planning and Development Agency in August 2020.
Since then, the BPDA has held a number of meetings to discuss the development plan — most recently of the Boston Civic Design Commission (Aug. 3) to discuss the latest changes. A virtual Impact Advisory Group meeting with a question-and-answer session that was slated for Aug. 23 has been postponed until 6 p.m. on Sept. 9.
Here is what we know about the redevelopment so far:
The project includes the demolition of two sites: the two-story Midtown Hotel at 220 Huntington Ave. and the four-story residential building at 1 Cumberland St.
The hotel has not changed much since it first opened in 1961, when its lease was held by the Druker Co., the Globe’s Tim Logan reported in 2018. The Cumberland Street property is a four-story, seven-unit building owned by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, according to The Boston Sun.
The church put the property on the market in June 2018 and began final negotiations with National Development in December 2018 before closing in March. During the pandemic, Northeastern University leased the hotel, housing first-year students through the spring of this year, to allow for social distancing in housing. The university has requested authorization to continue to use the hotel for housing for the 2021-2022 school year, according to news reports.
The Cumberland Street building sits within the Saint Botolph Architectural Conservation District, and therefore requires special permission from the Boston Landmarks Commission before it can be demolished. The BLC received a complete application from National Development to demolish the building in December 2020.
In a statement to Boston Business Journal last March, National Development Managing Partner Ted Tye explained what made the property an ideal choice for the company.
“The Midtown Hotel site is a real estate trifecta — well located near public transportation, ripe for redevelopment, and situated directly across from one of Boston’s grandest landmarks,” Tye said.
National Development won the bid for the development of the property in March 2019, settling on a 99-year ground lease. The company is involved in all levels of the process, according to the company’s website, including investing, development, construction, and property management.
Ben Sayles, a director at the real estate firm HFF, which handled the deal, told the Boston Globe last year that the church was “very deliberate” in its selection, looking to choose, “a highly qualified developer that will produce something that complements the Plaza and the surrounding neighborhood.”
In recent years, National Development has revitalized properties throughout Greater Boston, including the ongoing Ink Block development in Boston’s South End, Longwood Center in 2014, and The District in Burlington in 2017, to name a few.
The plan involves the demolition of the hotel and 1 Cumberland St. and the construction of a 10-story apartment and retail complex at the 66,660-square-foot site, according to the letter of intent National Development sent to the BPDA last year.
The new 115-foot-high development will be home to 325 studio, single- and two-bedroom apartments, according to the project impact report from June. Forty-two of the apartments will be designated as affordable.
The latest iteration of the plan includes approximately 15,500 square feet of retail space on the ground level and an underground parking lot with 152 spaces for residents. The gross square footage of the building will be 352,462.
National Development recently reworked the plan for the facade after receiving comments from the public. The new face is a “lighter, more elegant” version of the previous plan, Tye said at a June Impact Advisory Group meeting.
“We want to be known as a great building in Boston, but we also at the same time want to be somewhat of a neutral backdrop to the settings on both sides of us,” Tye said.
The latest proposal also includes a new open space along Cumberland Street that will be open to the public, a protected bike lane, a new BlueBike station, and a widened sidewalk, Sam Rendel National Development vice president of development and project lead, announced at the June meeting.
The Sept. 9 meeting is slated to discuss the park planned for Cumberland Street, according to the meeting description on the BPDA website.