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Cambridge's Middle East Wants to Plant Apartments Up Top

[Photo Courtesy of Cambridge Day]

Middle East owner Joseph Sater wants to stay open but would need to expand. The complex has been a part of the artist community in Cambridge since 1970. It currently houses the ZuZu Restaurant, Middle East Downstairs, Upstairs and Corner. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast, there are several major caveats that stand in the way.

It will cost $7M to buy the property from the landlord, funds that Sater doesn't have quite yet. To offset the cost of the purchase and expansion, Sater's plan is to construct 50 to 100 apartments or condominiums in four to five stories above the existing complex.

Faced with the options to build office or lab space, Sater said "that's not my community need." Even though these would bring in more revenue, he agrees that Cambridge needs more housing that is close to transit and will support the businesses in the neighborhood. Admittedly, he also knows that they won't be artist live-work spaces. The cost of living in one of these units would be "high."

The exact number of units will depend on the configuration of the spaces, but it will most likely include some restaurant and communal spaces on the second floor. There could also be an outside dining area on the second floor which will act as a buffer between the residences and club on the ground level.

Oh, and the other thing. They're not thinking of closing and expanding the existing complex. They want to build four to five stories atop of it. In order to keep the complex open and retain the important revenue, the complex won't be demolished and rebuilt.

The architect, William Schaefer, who worked on the Middle East Downstairs, is also working on the expansion plan. He admits that the plan has its own set of constraints. It means that there won't be any parking because it would require digging underneath the structure. Also, reinforcing the existing structure to support an additional five stories will pose a unique challenge. Backed by initial conversations with engineers, the owners and architect remain confident. They plan on having another community meeting in about a week.
· One Day You Could Live Over the Middle East [Eater Boston]
· For Middle East to Rock On in Central, Owners Want You to Move Overhead [Cambridge Day]