EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 19, 2012

Salisbury hopes state will buy cafe

SALISBURY — Since 1956, it’s been the site of an ocean-side public swimming pool, a venue for kiddie rides, a sub shop and a deck-top cocktail lounge, but today, the former Sidewalk Cafe brings to mind primarily one word: eyesore, and a potentially dangerous one at that.

Located on .93 acres on the beach on Ocean Front South, the 40,000-square-foot Sidewalk Cafe has been closed for years, although subject of no end of ideas for redevelopment. None of them have seen the light of day, leaving the crumbling mess of concrete and exposed wood a safety problem for town officials, as well as a blight on the nearby residential neighborhood and the businesses trying to attract customers right across the street.

Owned by Mark Finneral of Tewksbury, until recently the building was a point of impasse between Thompson Design Group, the company hoping to redevelop Salisbury Beach Center, and developers Robb Osinski and Jay Gallagher, who had optioned the site from Finneral to develop it themselves. The developers’ arrangement with Finneral, however, terminated more than a year ago.

By late March 2012, the town had issued an order declaring the building an unsafe structure, giving Finneral a deadline to repair it or tear it down. Town Manager Neil Harrington said Finneral boarded up the building to ensure vagrants and kids couldn’t get in and took out the paperwork for a demolition permit, leading the town to believe he would raze it. However, Finneral never filed the papers to get the demolition permit and the building still stands.

Finneral’s plans changed, Harrington said, and those changes are delaying a final resolution to a problem that has many complaining to town officials.

Harrington said when the building didn’t come down by June, he had the town’s attorney contact Finneral’s attorney. What he learned was that Finneral didn’t want to tear it down, but was trying to sell the property to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns Salisbury Beach.

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