By Zeinab Diouf
Boston University News Service
The Boston City Council issued a declaration of support for Sheraton Boston Hotel employees amid speculation that its new owners will convert the property into university dormitories.
City Council representatives released a resolution in support of Sheraton Boston Hotel employees whose union jobs could be impacted if owners Hawkins Way Capital and Värde Partners turn 427 rooms of the property into student housing.
In a March 23 Council meeting, Councilor President Ed Flynn, along with Councilors Tania Fernandes Anderson and Ruthzee Louijeune, proposed a resolution to appease workers’ concerns surrounding their now at-risk livelihoods.
The resolution, in part, calls upon the Sheraton’s owners to reconsider the conversion, arguing that it would displace the Sheraton’s working population, made primarily of disadvantaged peoples.
“Said conversion would cause the elimination of over one hundred jobs, predominantly held by women, people of color, and immigrants,” wrote Councilor Fernandes Anderson, in an email correspondence. “We on the council oppose this vehemently.
Sheraton employees have done yeoman-like work throughout the years, and to see their jobs eviscerated in such a manner, particularly in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, is a crass approach of unbridled corporatist greed.”
Located at 39 Dalton St. in Back Bay, the 1,220-room property is the largest hotel in Boston and employs approximately 300 union workers. Investment firms Hawkins Way Capital and Värde Capital secured the 4-star hotel at the discounted price of $233 million from its former owners, Host Hotels & Resorts, in February.
Per The Boston Globe, at the time of its purchase, no potential business ventures were sketched out for the Sheraton. Council President Flynn, however, maintains that at present, real estate communities are abuzz with the news that a Boston-area university inquired about transforming 427 guest rooms in the 29-story building into student housing.
Though the conversion process cannot be initiated without approval at the city and state levels, Council President Flynn believes that it is imperative the city announce its stance now.
“Now that we’re coming out of this pandemic and difficult economic times, the Sheraton wants to turn their back on these workers for profit,” said Council President Flynn in a conference call last week. “This city stands with workers as it ensures that they are treated with respect and dignity and converting from a hotel to a dorm is just the opposite message that we could possibly send as a city and as a society.”
The Sheraton Boston Hotel declined multiple requests for comment.
This would not mark the first time a university has occupied hotel space. In a bid to address its overcrowding issue, Northeastern University houses students off-campus in the Sheraton Boston Hotel, the Midtown Hotel and the Westin Copley Place.
It remains to be seen whether the resolution, which councilors deem sufficient in addressing the grievances of Sheraton Boston employees, will deter future development. Framing their sentiments through the lenses of pandemic recovery and community support, city officials stressed their willingness to see this matter through to its completion.
“The Council would need to continue to stand in solidarity with the Sheraton workers,” wrote Councilor Fernandes Anderson. “If that means walking the picket line, or speaking to the owners directly to serve as interlocutors, we must and we will do what is necessary on behalf of these endangered employees.”