SALISBURY — The building that was an obstacle to revitalization plans for Salisbury Beach Center could be coming down soon.
The crumbling remains of the former Sidewalk Cafe at 25 Oceanfront South could be demolished in the next two weeks, according to Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington.
Property owner Mark Finneral of Tewksbury recently took out a demolition permit to raze the building that has been an eyesore for more than a decade.
Harrington said the town in December issued an "unsafe structure order," giving Finneral a deadline by which to make repairs or tear down the structure.
"He made some cosmetic improvements to keep kids out of it," Harrington said. "But he would have had to spend a lot more to really fix it up."
Since taking out the demolition permit, Harrington said, Finneral is doing necessary testing to determine if the building contains lead or asbestos. If found, both materials must be disposed of in an approved manner during demolition. Once the utilities are removed, the building can then be taken down.
The former Sidewalk Cafe had been a point of impasse between Thompson Design Group, the company hoping to redevelop Salisbury Beach Center, and two developers who had optioned the site from Finneral to develop it themselves.
In the summer of 2010, Robb Osinski and Jay Gallagher were considered one of three groups of "holdouts" refusing to negotiate in good faith with the Thompson Design Group.
Others holdouts were a small group of condo owners and the Salisbury Beach Associates, a property-owning entity that controls small strips of land throughout the beach center. The associates' property includes land that once held trolley and railroad tracks, along Oceanfront South and a small piece of Central Avenue near Broadway.
The situation prevented the Thompson Design Group from controlling all the land in the target redevelopment area, which had been delineated in 2007 primarily as Broadway, Oceanfront North, Oceanfront South and parts of Driftway.
Norm Beaulieu and Buzz Constable of RE Commerce, the development arm of Cambridge-based urban designer the Thompson Design Group, worked to negotiate development contracts with about 70 beach property owners within the section of Salisbury Beach Center. The contracts were needed to allow the properties to eventually be razed, redesigned and rebuilt.
While negotiations had initially moved along well, the holdouts soon began to take a toll. Local developer Wayne Capolupo, president of SPS New England, eventually halted negotiations with Beaulieu and instead independently began redeveloping his properties along the Driftway, Oceanfront North and Broadway.
By June 2010, negotiations with Osinski and Gallagher, the Salisbury Beach Associates and a few condo owners also stalled.
According to Harrington, the issue for Osinski and Gallagher and the Salisbury Beach Associates was money, with both groups believing their properties were worth more than what the project organizers had proposed.
Control of the properties was vital not only for Thompson Design Group's goal of redeveloping a contiguous section of the beach center, but also to prove to financial backers that the project was workable and should be financed, Harrington said.
On July 30, 2010, Osinski and Gallagher's option on the Sidewalk Cafe expired and this time, Finneral refused to renew it. Shortly after, Osinski filed a lawsuit against Finneral because of the refusal.
Recently, Finneral's attorney succeeded in having Osinski's lawsuit dismissed at the land court level, Harrington said. Harrington is hopeful negotiations will soon begin between Beaulieu and Finneral.
However, since the project has languished so long without action, most of the three-year development agreements Thompson Group had signed with the other beach property owners have expired. If the project is to be revived, Harrington said those contracts must be renewed and agreements with Finneral, the Salisbury Beach Associates and any other holdouts must be obtained as well.
This week, principals from Thompson and RE Commerce are expected to be in Salisbury meeting with property owners concerning the future of their plans for Salisbury Beach, plans that have stretched on for nearly five years without any visible steps taken.