Why Did The Gaiety Die?

So you heard yesterday about Tom Menino's big new plan to spur development with federal loan guarantees, and you're reading Casey Ross's story in the Globe about it, and you see that the Mayor cited as one of the likely recipients something called Kensington Place in Chinatown, which Ross notes "has failed to move forward since receiving initial city approvals in 2003."

And you think to yourself, didn't I, as a regular reader of the Boston Phoenix, once read something about the urgent need to demolish some historic building ASAP to make way for Kensington Place construction?

Yes, that's right, four years ago the developers, with the full support of the Menino administration, were adamant that the Gaiety Theatre had to be put to the wrecking ball with all speed and dispatch -- no time to waste on questions of whether the whole development project was in violation of this that and the other ordinance, or whether there were historic treasures inside to be saved, or if the theatre could have been saved and revived, or even if it was really such a smart idea to build a massive, 290' tower of luxury apartments in the middle of struggling, working-class Chinatown.

No, there was no time to waste, and so the Gaiety was demolished to make way for Kensington Place. Or, more accurately as it turns out, for a small patch of empty, unused space.

Well, maybe it will be built now, with this new program. I wouldn't count on it -- at least, not judging by the "success" of the program Menino is modeling this after: the Boston Hotel Development Loan Fund, which I wrote about at its announcement five years ago.

As I wrote then, Menino and the BRA were quite explicit that the Fund was meant to jump-start four of the stalled "big-box" hotels on the South Boston Waterfront, which were all meant to be open for business when the Boston Convention and Expo Center opened in '04. The only one of the four that took part in the Fund was the Starwood hotel attached to the BCEC, which had previously sworn up and down that it had all the funding it could possibly ever need. (When the other big-boxes spurned the program, the city made the loans available to three other, smaller hotel projects, which then leveraged the availability of the public loans to secure private funding. All three have now opened, but it took more than four years.)

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