Valhalla remains far off until council decides on side-street entrances
Valhalla’s where Norse heroes go to die, but it’s also a rock club, bar and restaurant in Central Square that can’t quite come to life. It’s also where the owners of the All Asia Bar go when that 11-year-old rock club dies, and they can’t move from 344 Massachusetts Ave. to Prospect Street until they know Valhalla will work.
The issue arises again tonight before the City Council, if only to be sent off for more discussion before a vote is taken.
The problem: City law for the so-called Central Square Overlay District created more than two decades ago says clubs and bars such as Valhalla need a main entrance on Massachusetts Avenue or Main Street, while Valhalla’s 5,000-square-foot space opens onto Prospect. (As part of the ground floor of a larger building owned by Intercontinental Real Estate of Boston, Valhalla’s address is sometimes given as 675 Massachusetts Ave.)
All Asia manager Marc Shulman said in early December 2010 that the club would be moving — forced out by that month’s announcement that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its developer, Forest City, planned to build on the block — but it wasn’t until August 2011 that lease negotiations allowed him to reveal plans for Valhalla. He still faced getting the needed permits.
It’s “a process that supposedly can go on a while,” Shulman said. “It’s kind of painful.”
Even then he knew the club depended on a side street entrance, an issue that has been championed by city councillor Ken Reeves. A council order on the issue was sent to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for a hearing and report Sept. 12, 2011.
The Oct. 13 committee hearing that followed drew a spectrum of opinion and a request for “more discussion and outreach to neighbors”; now All Asia finds itself in essentially the same position a year later — asking again for a change to the district that allows its Prospect Street entrance, now with a 40-person petition noting that the block “has the same character and mix of commercial use as Massachusetts Avenue and Main Street.”
Indeed, Valhalla’s entrance would be across from the Prospect Street entrances to the ImprovBoston comedy club and The Field bar.
And once again the petition has been referred to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for a hearing and report.
What’s saving All Asia at this point: Construction on its block is delayed. The 246,716-square-foot building developer Forest City wanted to put up at 300 Massachusetts Ave. for the Millennium biotech company was stymied by resident opposition and councillors’ last-minute attempts to wrest more affordable-housing guarantees.
Also coming up at the council hearing: lots of parking-related council orders.
Among the five orders: easing Saturday parking meter rules so people can attend Cambridge youth league sporting events at Ahern Field; cutting the Central Square Farmer’s Market a break on rising costs at Municipal Parking Lot 5; adding residential and metered spaces at the North Point Park; installing “pay by phone”-enabled meters, which send alerts to drivers’ phones when meter time is almost up and lets them add time remotely; and a clarification of parking rules for commercial vehicles at construction sites.
Most of the parking orders came from councillor Minka vanBeuzekom.
The council meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.