Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Faces sign comes down Wednesday on Route 2 — decades after the nightclub closed. (Photos: Charles Teague)

The sign came down Wednesday at the old Faces nightclub on Route 2, marking the start of redevelopment at a site languishing since the club closed in 1990.

Since the area is a Gateway to Cambridge and Boston, the region has long suffered from economic swings and infighting on the part of the Martignetti family. As a result, the event drew the media as well as Cambridge politicians Michael Sullivan, Denise Simmons and Marjorie Decker, as well as Mayor David Maher, who reminisced about dancing there during its heyday. (City Manager Robert W. Healy, also on hand, said he stopped dancing “circa Donna Summer.”)

The site is set to become 227 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments in a massive complex surrounding three rear courtyards. Developer Rich McKinnon said construction should start this summer, resulting in a summer 2013 opening.

The market-rate apartments in the complex, called the Residences at Alewife, will cost between $1,500 and $3,000, with another 34 units set aside to be affordable housing. Residents of those below-market units should be getting quite a deal: Renderings for the project show yards, a pool, gym, community room, billiards room and screening room with a flat-screen television and cushy individual seats. There will even be a concierge, said McKinnon and other employees of his McKinnon Co., and residents can rest easy knowing the builders are seeking LEED and Energy Star environmental certification — even using solar power to heat the pool.

It’ll be quite a change from the dingy wasteland the space became since closing. Faces’ history goes back to 1936, when the site hosted a restaurant and motel, according to Charlie Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission. That structure burned in 1970 and was rebuilt the next year on the 24,994-square-foot property. But after a stretch as The Empire Room and host to such talent as Ike and Tina Turner, then as Faces, the structure could have been closed for more than a quarter-century, according to a commercial review appraiser in the city assessor’s office.

So it could have been merely relief prompting the cheer seen on a rainy Wednesday and the near jubilation March when McKinnon showed the Planning Board his most recent designs. One member called it “the best presentation I’ve ever seen on the Planning Board.”