Report: Middle East in Cambridge considering building residential units above its current space

Strike up a conversation outside Great Scott in Allston with someone new to the club or area, and the topic often trends upward: at the residential units that sit directly above the loud rock club. It’s a unique, noisy co-existence, and one that’s been around for decades. But it still catches people’s attention.

Those sidewalk conversations could soon be coming to Mark Sandman Square in Cambridge, as the Middle East Nightclub and Restaurant is considering a proposal to build four or five stories of residential apartments above its Central Square complex. Cambridge Day reported on a community meeting last night at the Middle East’s corner, where owner Joseph Sater sought input and approval from neighbors to move to buy the property for $7 million then build above it.

The issue has come up due to the death of the current landlord, and the Saters now have the option of buying the property from the DuPont family within two years. But to meet the asking price, they need to expand the current building at 472-480 Massachusetts Avenue, which houses two stages vital to the Boston music community: the 195-capacity “Upstairs” room and it’s 575-capacity “Downstairs.” The overall complex also features an award-winning restaurant and the ZuZu nightclub and eatery.

Sater does not want to affect his current layout, so that means one thing: building upward.

Cambridge Day reported on a “constrained construction” plan that calls for anywhere from 50 to 100 residential units, but with no real change to the Middle East’s current restaurant and nightclub set up, since Sater fears it would damage current revenues and take up to five years to recover from. In short: the building would not be razed, just re-enforced and built upward.

According to the report:

That means no expansion of The Middle East (or for its nightclub neighbor on Brookline Street, T.T. the Bear’s Place); no parking, since that could be achieved only through an underground garage; and no extreme or net zero environmental efforts that could raise costs significantly, although early plans include rooftop and community gardens, as well as solar cells on the roof and rear of the building.

The second floor would have some restaurant space and community amenities, which would buffer residences above from the noise of the club on the ground floor. Schaefer told the meeting that an outside dining area was envisioned for the second floor at the corner, one of the planned carve-outs that could soften the perceived height of the building, and that some form of sculpture could go over that, as well as on Brookline Street over the entrance to the Middle East Downstairs.

Another community meeting is planned for next week. LT Live & Hard Attack Entertainment have a show tonight at the Middle East “Upstairs”: The Metal Masters Tour, featuring Vicious Rumors, Seven Witches, Power Theory, Ravage, and Seax.

Here’s a rendering showing last night of the proposed expansion, courtesy of Cambridge Day:

Middle East Rendering