(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
In August 2011 Lillie Marshall became sick while traveling for a week throughout central China. In 95-degree heat, she arrived in Shanghai, weak and feverish.
“I stagger off the bus into Shanghai, jostled by the thousands of people on the street, cars and mopeds honking, nearly running me over, my fever swirling, neon lights and thick smells assault my face,” Marshall said as she recounted the experience.
But before beginning her journey, she had reserved a bed at a hostel just a block from where the bus dropped her off.
“And when I walked into the Hostelling International Blue Mountain Hostel, I literally started to cry,” said Marshall, 30. The hostel was clean and comfortably air-conditioned, and the staff met her with smiles and a warm welcome.
“A hostel is an international world, a haven unlike anywhere else,” said Marshall.
Marshall was one of many ardent hostel fans celebrating the June 22 grand opening of the new Boston hostel inside the 124-year-old Dill Building at 19 Stuart Street, on the edges of both Chinatown and the Theater District.
After a $43 million renovation, the hostel now boasts 480 beds for guests and an environmentally friendly design that its owners, the Eastern New England Council of Hostelling International USA, hope will qualify for LEED Gold certification.
Its energy-saving elements include the extensive use of recycled materials, kinetic elevators that store and reuse their own energy, and an ozone washing system for bed linens that uses less water than traditional laundry systems.
Beds in the hostel will range from $29 - $50 per night in shared rooms, which have three sets of bunk beds set into alcoves between storage cabinets, while private rooms with their own bathrooms will rent for $100 - $150 per night.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the new hostel, which replaces a 208-bed hostel in the Fenway, will provide an affordable option to visitors from around the world.
“That’s what this is really about: the affordability of staying in our city,” he said. “Because we’re a city that people want to come to, we’re a city that continues to evolve, a city that has attractions that people want to come to, but sometimes they can’t afford the rates of some of the hotels we have.”
Menino extended his welcome to visitors already staying in the hostel, which opened to its first guests about 10 days earlier, and said he looks forward to welcoming the approximately 46,000 guests the hostel is projected to house annually, most of them visiting from abroad. Those guests are expected to generate more than $16 million for the local economy each year.
The visitors will have access to several shared public spaces, including a first-floor coffee shop open to anyone and an upstairs TV lounge, computer lab, library, and shared kitchen space where guests will prepare their own meals.
About once a week, the hostel will host a simple group dinner, such as a spaghetti night, to encourage guests to socialize. Otherwise, the kitchen area will be open for personal food preparation at any time of the day or night.
“If you’re Spanish and like to eat at 11 o’clock at night, you can eat at 11 o’clock at night,” said Mark Vidalin, director of marketing for Hostelling International USA, during a tour of the facility.
Speaking during the grand opening ceremony, At-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley spoke of the potential such shared spaces and shared meals have for bringing together people from vastly different backgrounds and countries all over the world.
“Sharing a table and communal space, I’ve no doubt, has huge implications on our domestic and international relations,” Pressley said.
“I don’t know why people bandy about terms about people striving for ‘tolerance.’ I don’t know anybody that wants to be tolerated,” she said. “People want to be understood, and that’s realized in spaces like this. Cultures are celebrated and community is fostered.”
(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)