Plans for North End hotel clear ZBA despite neighborhood concerns

Plans for a much-debated boutique hotel facing the Rose Kennedy Greenway at the gateway to Boston’s North End cleared the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal Tuesday, a key approval needed before construction can begin.

The five-story, 134-room hotel at 40-42 Cross St., proposed by William Caulder of 6M Development, would include restaurants on both the ground floor and roof, as well as a two-story open-air passageway to the adjacent Cutillo Park. The Boston Planning and Development Agency approved the project in March.

The hotel proposal generated several hundred letters in support and opposition. Fliers advocating against the development papered the neighborhood of late, asking residents to contact officials to voice concerns. Over the weekend, the North End Waterfront Residents Association held a rally against the project.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, because of the impacts to several neighbors, but the overall development is going to be an incredible improvement for this corner of the neighborhood that is full of blight,” Caulder said after the meeting. The site, which houses one-story buildings and surface parking spaces, makes frequent appearances on the city’s 311 complaint line, with residents asking for needle pickup, graffiti removal, and trash cleanup.

The project required zoning variances to allow for a hotel and restaurants as well as to be up to 55 feet tall, said Johanna Schneider, an attorney representing the developer. The maximum building height allowed there under existing zoning is 15 feet. The development team received more than 385 letters of support, Schneider said, and attended more than 40 meetings to discuss the project.

The hotel will not have any parking, as it is “extremely walkable” and served by multiple modes of public transportation, Schneider said. The development team has begun discussions with nearby parking garages for valet parking, and has been talking with the Boston Transportation Department about potential overnight parking locations, she said.

“What we were told by the BPDA, in no uncertain terms, is that their vision of this site and of Cross Street was to create a pedestrian space,” Schneider said.

Six members of the ZBA voted to approve the project, with Chair Christine Araujo opposing it. State Sen. Lydia Edwards also opposed the project. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu — who had been a vocal critic of the ZBA during her tenure on the Boston City Council — said at an Oct. 14 community that she stood with neighbors who opposed the project.

“That was somewhat of a guide for me to go to the polls and cast my vote for her,” said North End resident Mary Beth Sweeney, who visited the project site and spoke in opposition at Tuesday’s ZBA meeting.

The Wu administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Conor Newman, a special assistant of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, said the office had heard from many supporting and opposing the project and would defer to the ZBA for its ruling on the project.

Representatives from State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and City Councilor Michael Flaherty’s offices supported the project, and City Councilor Gabriela Coletta, who won a special election for Edwards’s seat in May, also gave a tepid approval.

“I don’t believe this project is terrible or would have a net negative impact on the community. This is my stance and I respectfully disagree with those who believe it would be,” Coletta said. “The advantage of providing civic amenities in a way that is equitable to all is enough for me to support this proposal.”

There is a 30-day appeal process following a ZBA vote. If there’s no appeal, Caulder said, he hopes to start construction in spring or summer 2023.


Catherine Carlock can be reached at catherine.carlock@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bycathcarlock.

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