SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 25, 2013

Heard Around Town: Development planned on no man’s land

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — The land along Washington and Dodge streets where a developer plans to build a six-story, $45 million retail and residential complex is something of a no man’s land.

It’s next to the Dodge Street Grill, which has been closed for a while.

It’s where Bay State Billiards used to be, but is long gone. It’s also right where Billy Ray’s Laundromat was, now another empty storefront.

This suddenly important piece of land had a variety of owners before RCG, the Somerville company that wants to develop the site.

Past landlords include Nondas Lagonakas, the founder of Bill & Bob’s Roast Beef; Haim Weizmann, a Swampscott resident who used to own a big chunk of the downtown; and the development arm of DeIulis Brothers Construction, builders of schools, garages and other city landmarks.

RCG, to its credit, pulled all the pieces together, got control of all the land and is venturing forth with another major downtown development.

This is the same company that converted the former Salem Laundry building into Derby Lofts, a condo/apartment building that just hit a bump in the road. Not yet a decade old, the building is undergoing major renovations to the exterior walls and other work.

RCG’s footprint is already huge in Salem. Rather than list buildings it owns, here are some of its tenants: Gulu-Gulu Cafe, O’Neill’s Irish Pub, Starbucks, Howling Wolf Taqueria, Passage to India, A&J King Artisan Bakers and Tavern in the Square.

It’s a who’s who of food and drink.

Going, going ...

The city’s Planning Department is losing two of its best, which reflects well on the department as a training ground for top talent.

Economic Development Manager Tom Daniel, who worked most recently on the Essex Street pedestrian mall, is leaving soon to become community development director in Gloucester.

Danielle McKnight, another staffer, left recently to become town planner in North Reading.

Oscar buzz

Did you see that Helen Hunt was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for her role in “The Sessions”?

That’s the movie based on the true story of sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene, who was Cheryl Theriault when she grew up in Salem in the 1950s and ’60s.

Boomtown

Like many of us, Mary Zaharis Manos was touched when she heard the news of the passing of Rex Trailer.

In the mid-1960s, the Salem girl got a chance to meet the TV cowboy when Trailer and his sidekick Pablo came to Salem State College.

Mary, by the way, is the daughter of the late Pete Zaharis, the photographer whose camera shop was to Salem what the Algonquin Hotel was to New York City. It’s where some real characters came to chat it up.

Birthday bash

A who’s who of former presidents of Salem Rotary turned out for the 95th birthday bash at the Hawthorne Hotel.

John Quinn, who was the 39th president, had the bright idea of pinning his “presidential number” to his hat. It inspired other past presidents to pin numbers somewhere on their persons for the luncheon.

Local Hero

The Celtics honored Randy Clarke of Salem in its “Hero Among Us” tribute at a recent game.

Clarke is the MBTA official who witnessed an assault in downtown Boston and chased the attacker 10 blocks while giving police information and directions on his cellphone.

The bad guy was eventually caught.

Monopoly vote

Slowly but surely, they are chipping away at this city’s greatest contribution to American capitalism: Monopoly.

Hasbro, which owns the board game, is going to dump one of the eight original game pieces. It has given online voters until Feb. 5 to decide which will go: the battleship, iron, race car, Scottie dog, shoe, thimble, top hat or wheelbarrow.

Voters also have been asked to choose the replacement piece: a cat, diamond ring, guitar, helicopter or toy robot.

“The tokens that are in the game today represent household items from the 1930s,” a company executive said in a published interview. “We wanted to introduce a new token to the game that’s more representative of today’s Monopoly players.”

That’s a dangerous precedent.

Imagine what would happen if wives decided to get rid of something just because it was old and obsolete.

Salem who?

We got an angry phone call the other day from a man demanding we do a story on the little boy who bit into a screw at our local movie theater.

The guy went on and on about the newspaper’s duty to report the truth before we realized he was talking about Northern Lights Theatre Pub in Salem, Ore.

Well, at least he got a chance to vent.

Free movie

Speaking of the movies, CinemaSalem co-owner Paul Van Ness still hasn’t gotten over the incredible response to his Kickstarter campaign. The movie theater ended up raising $68,895 — almost $10,000 more than its goal to convert to digital movie projection.

To celebrate, CinemaSalem is having free screenings of “The Princess Bride” tomorrow at 10 a.m. and midnight.

“These screenings are our way of saying thanks to everyone in the CinemaSalem community, including those who made the recent Kickstarter campaign such a huge and heartwarming success,” Van Ness wrote in an email.

New councilor

Stop mispronouncing the name of new City Councilor Bill Legault. It’s not Legault as in malt, or salt, or not-my-fault.

He pronounces it Le-go, as in snow, or show, or I can’t believe I took this thankless job for so little dough.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.