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Kansas developer enamored of Japanese capsule hotels wants to build one on High Street downtown

Rendeirng of proposed Boston capsules

What $65 a night on High Street would buy you. From a Wharf District Council presentation.

Update: The licensing board deferred its vote so it can take a look at last week's zoning-board extension on the project.

The Boston Licensing Board decides tomorrow whether to let Chris Elsey, a developer from Manhattan, KS, build a 14-story hotel on what is now a tiny parking lot on High Street with 100 two-person pods, similar to, if a bit larger than. the pods found in Japanese capsule hotels.

A previous owner of the parcel won city approval more than seven years ago to build a more traditional hotel with 50 smallish rooms, but despite four extensions from the Zoning Board of Appeal, was never able to start work on the project.

Elsey bought the property earlier this year and last week, won a fifth extension from the zoning board to begin work before Jan. 21, 2022. Acting board Chairman Mark Erlich said that normally the board would reject a fifth extension on a project, but he and other board members agreed to give Elsey more time since it was the other guy who'd gotten earlier extensions while this was Elsey's first such request for the project.

Elsey details his proposal to the licensing board today:

Elsey

At a hearing today before the licensing board - which grants licenses for hotels and similar facilities, Elsey said he will keep the earlier building's general dimensions, but that instead of 50 hotel rooms, would install 100 4x4x8 double-deck pods, each with enough bed room for two people. Renderings of the pods.

The pods would give downtown Boston a discount lodging space for people to enjoy Boston at a reduced price. He said that while, in pre-Covid days, the average downtown hotel room went for $265 a night, his capsules would go for just $65 a night. He added that each pod would have its own lock.

The building's 14th floor would remain empty for now, to await the liquor license Elsey said he would eventually seek for a restaurant there.

Elsey, who started out building apartments near Midwest colleges, has recently begun branching out to the coasts. Earlier this year, he proposed an apartment building in San Francisco that would include 65 underground pods, although with a sunken courtyard to provide some modicum of natural light.

Both the mayor's office and the office of City Councilor Ed Flynn opposed the proposal, citing concerns of members of the Wharf District Council. However, they did not specify what those concerns were.

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Comments

keep his ideas out

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Voting closed 21

Don't like this? Find other ways to resolve the issues raised by this that bother you.

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Always nice to see this kind of intellectual and informed critique.

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After the recession from COVID goes the city needs to be able to rebound, which means welcoming others back through tourism. An inexpensive housing solution would be awesome for the local businesses (that survive).

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but will check out the sequel to 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness' next year.

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he is still just a guy on this page

(i know, i just had to after Parkwayne's funnier post)

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Just know I spent like 5 minutes trying to figure out something like that first.

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I applaud you! I called Billy and he wants to meet.
Bravo!

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he's going to rerecord all the guitar parts when you go home.

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Part of the reason these exist in Japan is because their public transportation shuts down around midnight. Boston has that “feature” too, unfortunately.

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Voting closed 36

How are tiny hotels and early closings related? Is it so partiers can get a cheap hotel in the city for party nights?

Part of the reason these exist in Japan is because their public transportation shuts down around midnight. Boston has that “feature” too, unfortunately.

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It's so you don't have to try to get home with transit running. You can go sleep in a capsule and then go home in the morning once transit is running again.

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Ok, seems like a great idea then Let's try it. Seems like a very low risk thing for us to try.

Also, based on the pictures and comments, I'm a bit unclear on the door situation. Are there not locking doors on these things?

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you were fortunate enough to visit Japan you’d know just how much the average “salary man” drinks at night and you’d understand why they like these places lol

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a hotel for ants?!?

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We keep on talking about equity and letting the non wealthy enjoy Boston. That means sometimes entertaining things like this. Yes very uncomfortable looking, may be a bit unseemly to some. Not lux by any means. It gets the job done for lower income people and young people as well. I lived in the burbs but my friends live in the city and they would go out to drink then brunch the next day. This would give me the option of enjoying the weekend with them without driving drunk or running back and forth etc. It would also be a great way for tourists to hit Boston for a weekend and take in the city.

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Voting closed 66

We'll give approval for your pigeon farm just as soon as you walk back there and bench-press 300 pounds.

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Not everyone can afford to visit Boston due to the crazy hotel prices.

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I support this.

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ADA compliance
Fire egress

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Not to mention the combination of no proper door combined with drunk people checking in late night. How do you stop people from being obnoxious and loud or worse... intruding on another person's bed and assaulting them. This all around seems like a bad idea.

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Hostels and other similar businesses have been making this setup work for centuries. If all you need is a place to sleep and leave your stuff, this kinda thing can be perfectly fine.

Just because you wouldn't pay for it, doesn't mean it wouldn't work for other people.

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These pods offer a lot more privacy and noise insulation than a 16 bed hostel room. I'd be happy to pay $65 for it.

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than a standard bunk bed? Because those are already in use in hostels throughout Boston, I'm sure.

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These aren't any different than hostel bunk beds. I assume they'll have to make a percentage of beds fully accessible.

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For ADA compliance, they'll need one or two accessible units in the building. Not every hotel room is required to be accessible, only a percentage are.

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It was a bathhouse ...

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that had entertainment options

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I thought the bathhouse was on Otis Street.

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hmmm were there possibly 2?

On Franklin, Club 297 was upstairs from the amazing lesbian bar, Somewhere.

In 1989, the owner of 297 paid a couple of his employees to torch the place (United States v. Mitchell is a pretty good read).

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First there was one on LaGrange Street in the Combat Zone.

Shortly after the Franklin Street establishment opened in the Financial District, a mysterious fire shut down the LaGrange Street club, leaving Club 247 as the only game in town until *their* fire.

This was all during the early days of AIDS, where bathhouses were being shut down worldwide.

A few years later, a new "gym" opened on Wareham Street deep in the South End, but that didn't last long after the Herald ran a hysterical and homophobic front-page expose.

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Never knew about La Grange.

Haha the Herald coverage of Safari Club was as intense as the Salem Witch trials.

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Plenty of your readers are well-versed in the anals of Boston debauchery history.

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Not a lot of clean air downtown.

Not to mention the spread of disease.

If you’ve ever spent the night in a hot windowless ferry cabin, you know how important proper ventilation in tight quarters is.

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Are you not familiar with Japan at all? They are obsessed with cleanliness and good health.

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Are you at all familiar with Kansas?

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You know, Dust In The Wind and all.

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the developer will be designing the HVAC system.

ok.

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Why would it be any different than any other modern building - just because it's smaller? Buildings like this require ventilation, fresh air, and air filtration systems - all of which are maintained on a regular basis by professionals. It is likely better air than a home that typically doesn't have dedicated fresh air. Not sure about your "spread of disease" comment - are there just 17th-century diseases floating around in a miasma in Boston? If that is the case maybe they should just abandon the City?

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Magoo imagines that smelly toots or loud friskyness from pod neighbors maybe an issue. As an aside Magoo calls burps “mouth farts”. Magoo.

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How is this different from communal rooms one sees in a hostel? Also, it can't be that hard to integrate some sort of door. I mean, if you have to pay to stay there, there must be some interface for getting in and out. Put in your credit card or wave a "paid" screen on your phone in front a device and a keycard pops out. Return the keycard the next day and you won't be charged extra fees.
Just make sure there is staff on site for other things/emergencies[1] (jammed toilet, power outage, incidents) and you're good.

[1]We once stayed at an inn with no overnight staff. We had used this inn regularly but one night, the bathtub/shower decided to spectacularly malfunction. Ruined an otherwise lovely visit.

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While I sure wouldn't use it the setup is a pretty clever use of limited space. Do it.

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I will not eat bugs.

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You are eating bugs all the time in processed foods (including stuff like bread), salads, etc...

Personally I could see eating something with cricket protein meal in it but I'm with you in that I'm not going to eat a plate of deep fried locusts entire. That would be as gross as shrimp.

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Lobster, crab, shrimp, crawfish...I'd argue that bugs are quite tasty and delicious when prepared correctly.

(also I have no idea what eating bugs or living in a pod has to do with this article, which is about hotels for brief trips.)

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I mean, not *this* year, but in general. If I'm traveling, I don't need a whole hotel room to myself. I just need a bed and at least a shared bathroom.

Some of y'all are complaining about this because you don't see doors or HVAC. Those aren't intrinsic problems with capsule hotels -- you just don't see them in the rendering. (And it's exactly the kind of thing that the board could dig into if it seemed like there was an omission.)

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I stayed in a pod hotel inside the terminal in Heathrow airport a decade ago on a 12 hour layover. It has better ventilation, a private bathroom and more ceiling height than this but it was terrible. No windows really bothered me and I had trouble sleeping there.

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A kind of hostel in downtown, a way for people to enjoy Boston without paying exclusionary pricing. Now that I've read all these posts about how it would be a great place to pass out after drinking makes me far less enthusiastic.

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These pods sound like a lot of unrelated people gathering in close quarters. Were COVID protocols discussed?

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If COVID is still a thing by the time this building actually might exist, like 2025 or so, then I'm sure those discussions will be had.

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George Orwell once reported the existence in London of a kind of accommodation called the Two-Penny Hangover, where people paid two pence to spend the night sitting on a bench, hanging over a rope which was stretched in front of them. At 5 AM a man came in and cut the rope.

Orwell was a credulous sort, and admitted that he hadn't seen this himself, but swore that he knew others who had. He also claimed that similar, but cheaper, arrangements could be found in Paris. There are earlier descriptions of the same phenomenon, and even claims that it is the source of the word "hangover", but experts discount this. However if one were to set up such an establishment in Boston in the twenty-first century, it would probably be better to avoid unfortunate associations, and call it a Rope Hotel.

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When I was newly a parent and running on zero sleep, me and other moms talked about paying for a place to nap that wasn’t work and wasn’t our houses. And wasn’t the cost of a hotel. There’s an untapped market here!

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...I'm old enough to remember when you could get an ACTUAL hotel room around here for $65. Times change.

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I stayed in a capsule hotel while on vacation to Japan. Best sleep I had the whole trip (my travel companion snores and I'm a light sleeper). Exactly the kind of no-frills experience that is great for a day trip to a city. I hope this turns out to be a success.

My only concern about staying at a place like this in Boston is that Americans are not Japanese. If the clientele that this attracts are not quiet and respectful of others, the noise level inside a pod could go from "occasionally hear someone moving around" to "screaming drunk Massholes".

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Japanese culture is far different. It's cleaner, more polite, respectful.

Americans just don't have those boundries and respect of others that would allow this to prosper.

To me it seems like a perfectly skeezy set-up for thieves and predators to prosper.

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In theory I like the idea.

But I don't understand why it's only twice as many pods as hotel rooms in the previous plan. Double-decking should double the number, and the small size should increase it further.

And good luck to him if he thinks people would pay $65. I would be willing to pay far less.

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There are lots of empty college dorms that can be converted to feel good hostels.

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