Tenant is sought for Marino’s site, but neighbors have immediate concerns

North Cambridge residents say there is more than road work needed at the former Marino’s Restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The company leasing out the former Marino’s Restaurant has renewed efforts to find a tenant, city councillors were told in a letter last month, just as the officials asked the city manager to look into the issue.

The Italian restaurant at 2465 Massachusetts Ave. in North Cambridge closed in January 2007, and neighbors have become concerned about its future — and its present, councillors said in a group policy order May 24.

“This is a beautiful building on Mass. Ave., and it is slowly becoming a derelict,” said one of those neighbors, Morrison Court resident Chris McElroy. “I don’t want to see another Faces eyesore in my neighborhood.”

Faces, the defunct nightclub on Route 2, has become something of a trope in discussions of Cambridge’s economic health, with councillor Henrietta Davis seeking assurance from City Manager Robert W. Healy at a previous meeting that long-empty properties are being taxed at the highest level possible. Healy not only assured that assessments were up to date, there and at empty sites throughout the city, but later added an emphatic, “I hate Faces.”

The nightclub has been closed for a quarter-century, with redevelopment efforts stymied by politics within the family that owns the site.

There is more hope for business to resume in the Marino’s building.

George H. Katis, of Cambridge-based StoneRiver Properties LLC, said the site had been under lease agreement since October 2008 to Bourbon Coffee, a Rwandan coffee shop and bakery with locations in Rwanda and Washington, D.C.

“Recently, after one and a half years of planning with architects and engineers, estimating, scheduling contractors and applying for building permits, Bourbon Coffee unfortunately decided to break their lease,” Katis said. “Very frustrating to say the least given the amount of time and effort put in by all parties.”

StoneRiver has hired The Dartmouth Co., a Boston retail brokerage firm specializing in restaurants, to renew leasing efforts, he said.

“Although the economic climate is difficult, we remain confident that we can bring another restaurant to North Cambridge,” Katis said.

In the meantime, McElroy and other residents seek action to keep the site from deteriorating.

“Bushes are dead but still there, weeds are growing around it, a fence is falling down and other sections are broken. Cars are parking there overnight and I have seen youth hanging out there and voices in cars late at night,” McElroy told the council during its meeting’s public comment period. “I’m quite concerned about this.”

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