Thursday, May 23, 2024

General manager Kathryn Vallier looks over a guest room at the 907 Main hotel in Central Square’s Lafayette Square. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The ribbon was cut Wednesday on 907 Main, a boutique hotel on Lafayette Square, and tours of its five stories gave a sense of what’s to come as well as what’s already there.

Workers continue to put the finishing touches on a penthouse suite and an alley connecting to Columbia Street; a Praline patisserie isn’t due for three weeks; and rooftop lounge The Blue Owl won’t be open until the spring. (Even worse, it’s unclear when Toscanini’s ice cream will reopen as a 907 Main tenant.) But The Dial restaurant is serving and some of the 67 guest rooms have been filled since Sept. 9 – in many cases, with educators, medical workers and first responders taking advantage of a half-off “Love From Cambridge” deal.

“This is my love letter to Central Square. I’m all in on Central Square and I always have been,” said Patrick Barrett, an owner and the public face of the project. During the afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony he recalled his first visits to the square – as a kid drumming for a band playing at The Middle East – and noted that he had recently moved his family to Central.

Speakers at a Wednesday ribbon cutting at 907 Main was City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, left; Patrick Barrett, center; and Vallier. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The hotel and its amenities have sophistication and bits of glitz: The Dial’s dining room boasts a wall of green velvet behind cascade of jeweled drapes hanging from the ceiling; the penthouse has a private terrace. But the most prominent design aspect is exposed brick, and after servings of buñuelos (Colombian cheese fritters) and yucca fries from chef Justin Urso’s international menu at the Dial, Barrett called 907 Main the opposite of an elitist experience.

Sixty percent of 907 Main workers live in town, and about 40 percent live in The Port, he said. “This is a community place. This is a place everyone can use,” Barrett said. (Including into fall weather – the back patio is equipped with just-arrived heat lamps found through a connection of Barrett’s as other restaurants scramble to find the suddenly rare equipment.)

“Everything here is accessible and cheap,” he said, pointing to a $8 burger – with chips and a pickle – that may be among the least expensive meals to be had in Central Square. There are also entrées on the dinner menu up to $32.

Stays in the hotel, run by the Hay Creek chain, are expected to be from $159 to $279 nightly, hotel general manager Kathryn Vallier said, showing off details that include art unique to each room and sliding sheets that can separate the bay window seating from the rest of the space. (“It just filters the light and softens the room, and just totally changes the atmosphere,” she said.) Her favorite feature might be the work desks in each room: “A concentration station, if you will. Not too much distraction, and a great, comfortable chair,” she said. Bedside outlets include USB ports (and of course, hotel Wi-Fi is free); there’s soundproofing throughout, which will be tested when the penthouse and The Blue Owl come into use – sharing a floor.

The dining room of The Dial restaurant at 907 Main contrasts brick and velvet. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The coronavirus pandemic upset plans at 907 Main as much as anywhere. “Covid knocked us sideways,” said Barrett, who has worked for three years to get the hotel and its businesses open. “We really lost five months.” It continues to have an impact, especially with a second wave of infection expected as colder weather arrives and the economy sags, and Vallier said during the guest room tour, “Who knows when we’re going to be fully booked.”

It’s also why Toscanini’s wasn’t able to add an outpost back from East Cambridge in time for the 907 Main opening.

The Blue Owl’s terrace will overlook Main Street when the lounge opens in the spring. (Photo: Marc Levy)

“Patrick has almost killed himself bringing that hotel to fruition, and we’d love to be back where we were. We miss Lafayette Square,” Toscanini’s Gus Rancatore said Wednesday. But economic uncertainties made the move impossible for now. “Everything came to a screeching halt with the pandemic. Can you find anyone willing to make prediction about what will happen? I can’t even figure out what’s happening today.”

City Manager Louis A. DePasquale acknowledged the difficulties facing the hotel and thanked Barrett and his team for taking them on.

“It goes without saying that this is probably not the best time to be opening a hotel, [and] all of us in Cambridge have to understand the importance of working together with our business community, with our restaurants, and try whenever possible to stay local. Because we are all in this together,” DePasquale said. Especially as a complement to the nearby open-air Starlight Square performance complex, now in its final weeks, 907 Main will “add an atmosphere and a nighttime life that we really need to continue to build on. At this time more than ever, people need an opportunity to go out and socialize.”