, an old-fashioned storefront at the corner of Worcester Square and Washington Street, is likely headed for demolition as potential buyers prepare plans for a new building that would anchor the block with a combination of restaurant space and upscale residential condominiums.
Jim Robertson and Jay Hajj (known to the community through and ) have entered into an agreement to purchase the whitewashed storefront, and plan to construct a six-story building in its place.
The pair appeared before the Worcester Square Neighborhood Association Tuesday night in hopes of fleshing out concerns while the plan is still in its early stages. Though an agreement is in place, the deal is just 10 days in the making, Robertson said.
“I’ve been looking at the Hite building for decades,” he acknowledged. “Jay and I think we can put something there that will work for everybody.”
To duo is hoping to avoid the backlash that accompanied 2006 plans for the property by building as small as possible while still turning a profit.
“We can do something with less mass that’s more appropriate for the neighborhood and still design something that’s going to work,” Robertson said.
For now, plans are for a six-story building that does not expand the footprint of the Hite building. A first-floor restaurant roughly the same size as Toro would be topped by five full-floor condos, accessed by private elevator.
The current plan does not extend into the easement area at the back of the property, partially taken up by a garage that Robertson said would be torn down. Although a valet service would be employed to provide parking for the restaurant, no residential parking spaces will be included in the project, Robertson said.
Several residents spoke in favor of the project on Tuesday, lauding plans to store trash indoors and contain noise through modern construction materials. Another restaurant would contributed to the safety of the neighborhood by adding life to an otherwise dark stretch of sidewalk, some said.
“I definitely would say I’m in favor of a restaurant,” said Christos Hamawi. “When I walk home after 10 or 11 I know I feel safe because there’s people still at Toro and there’s eyes on the street.”
Longtime resident Michel Laflamme agreed.
Walking on Washington Street prior to Toro after 10:30 was a risky operation,” he said. “Toro just changed our block from a dangerous area to an area that seems like it’s one of the best.”
“I think that Hite is an eyesore,” he added. “It’s been an eyesore for years. I support good commercial enterprises on Washington Street.”
Common issues of trash, rodent control, parking and noise were brought forward by residents concerned with promises going unmet once construction permits are drawn.
“I don’t think we need more rats, I don’t think we need more cars,” one Worcester Square resident said.
But Greg Jackson, who is representing the buyers on behalf of , said he can vouch for their character.
“His reputation is stellar and we know how to reach him,” he said of Robertson.
Robertson and Hajj will be returning to the Worcester Square Neighborhood Association as soon as September to discuss further plans for the site.