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Chinatown tower plan moves ahead

Dainty Dot building to make way for housing, restaurant, parking

A rendering of a 26-story business and residential tower to be built at Kingston and Essex streets. A rendering of a 26-story business and residential tower to be built at Kingston and Essex streets.
By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / November 3, 2010

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After years of delay, the developer of a 26-story tower at the edge of Chinatown said he will begin construction next year, replacing the vacant Dainty Dot building between Chinatown and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

Developer Ori Ron said the new complex will transform the gateway to Chinatown and enliven a corner of the neighborhood that is largely devoid of activity after 5 p.m. His glass and stone tower will have 100 rental apartments and 100 condominiums, as well as four levels of parking and a restaurant on the ground floor.

“We want to bring people to this area and remove a building that’s been a blight on the neighborhood for 55 years,’’ said Ron, principal of Hudson Group North America, a Swampscott development firm. “This is another piece of the economic engine that serves Chinatown.’’

The $105 million project, at Kingston and Essex streets, was initially approved in the spring of 2008, but had been on hold because of funding difficulties and concerns about its design. Some neighbors also fought for preservation of the 121-year-old textile building that stands on the site.

The ornate structure, occupied in recent decades by the Dainty Dot Hosiery Co., was built in 1889 after the Boston fire of 1872 destroyed residences and many businesses. The nonprofit group Preservation Massachusetts has put the building on its most endangered list because of its location in a once-significant textile district.

However, it was denied landmark status in 2007 by the Boston Landmarks Commission, which noted its historic value was diminished when a portion of the building was lopped off in the 1950s to make way for the old elevated Central Artery.

During a meeting last month, the Boston Redevelopment Authority approved an array of changes to Ron’s proposal for the site, including the addition of 50 rental units, which will help make it more attractive to lenders. The project will also result in the development of 38 units of affordable housing elsewhere in Chinatown.

“The new housing in this project will serve as a fulcrum we can use to bring more development to this neighborhood,’’ said John Palmieri, BRA director. “It’s a very important location in the city, and this will help improve its appearance and vitality.’’

City officials have encouraged dense development in the area to turn it into a livelier, 24-hour neighborhood that will attract new residents and businesses. The project was hotly debated during community meetings, with some neighbors arguing the tower would be too tall for the neighborhood. Ron, who purchased the building for $9 million in 2006, initially proposed a 300-foot tower but agreed to reduce its height due to 270 feet.

Much of the debate focused on the project’s impact on the adjacent Greenway. But directors of the park system said it will add a 2,000-square-foot section to the park, and will also offer outdoor seating for restaurant patrons and park visitors. Ron will devote space for a Greenway maintenance room on the site and install laser-etched glass fins that will be accented with LED strips.

Ron said he intends to begin construction in the spring or summer of next year. The residences will range from studios to three-bedroom units, but he has not decided on rents or prices for the condominiums in the complex.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.