, Newburyport, MA

August 27, 2013

Dancing for joy

Flash mob will celebrate the demolition of Sidewalk Cafe


---- — SALISBURY — A “flash mob” will dance for joy tomorrow night to celebrate the razing of the old Sidewalk Cafe, which had become an eyesore for many Salisbury Beach Center enthusiasts.

Set to the music of “Celebration,” the flash mob will rise in motion at 7 p.m. in front of the Dolphin Grille, located on Ocean Front South, across from the site of the once-prosperous Sidewalk Cafe, before bulldozers tore it down last week to cheers from the neighborhood.

Those who would like to join in the merriment can learn and practice the flash mob choreography at a session beginning at 6:30 tonight at Kathy’s Tumbleweed Dance Studio, Elm Street, Route 110.

During its heyday, the Sidewalk Cafe was the site of an ocean-side public swimming pool, a venue for kiddie rides, a sub shop and a cocktail lounge. Located on the beach on Ocean Front South, the 40,000-square-foot Sidewalk Cafe had been closed for years, although it was the subject of endless ideas for redevelopment, none of which ever saw the light of day.

What remained was a crumbling mess of concrete and exposed wood resulting in 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.

The property was formerly owned by Mark Finneral of Tewksbury, until it was purchased just after Thanksgiving of last year for $475,000 by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns and maintains Salisbury Beach.

According to town records, the property was once appraised as high as $2.27 million in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2012. But that price dropped to $1,675,700, in fiscal 2013, with the building representing just $66,500 of the total. The drop in value was due to the condition of the building and because it hadn’t been the site of a revenue-producing business for years.

At the time of its purchase, then DCR spokeswoman SJ Port promised the state would take the building down, restore the dune and return the lot to open space that’s part of Salisbury Beach State Reservation, which is now occurring. Over the years, the state has purchased a handful of other oceanfront buildings in Salisbury Beach Center. Each has been torn down in order to open up public access to the beach and views of the ocean.