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Hotel Developers Who Checked Out During the Great Recession
 in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts Checking Back In

By Greg Turner, Boston HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Feb. 01, 2013--Hotel developers who checked out during the Great Recession no longer have reservations about building in Cambridge and Somerville.

In Porter Square, plans for a boutique hotel have been resurrected by a Cambridge builder. And over in Davis Square, the city of Somerville once again is soliciting bids from private developers to turn a parking lot into lodging.

The cross-border sites, less than a mile apart, would serve a mix of business travel and college-related bookings as well as tourists interested in Davis Square as a destination.

"Hotel development ground to a halt because nobody wanted to finance hotels of any kind or size" from 2008 to 2010, said Patrick Moscaritolo, head of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. "But nationally the industry has bounced back and locally it's been very strong."

About six years ago, the owner of the Kaya restaurant at 1924 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge floated plans to replace the Korean-Japanese eatery with a five-story hotel.

The project won city approval in 2009 but never got started.

Earlier this month, Kaya restaurateur Meehn Gim sold the development rights to Young Lee, who operates a residential construction company in Cambridge.

"The opportunity came along and I just hopped in," said Lee, who is still lining up financing, a hotel operator and new permits. The Porter Square Hotel will have 70 rooms and a new version of the Kaya restaurant on the ground floor, he said.

Brian Murphy, Cambridge's assistant city manager, said the area "would certainly be receptive to some more hotel rooms," particularly because the 112-room Inn at Harvard, owned by the university, will close in mid-July to become student housing swing space as a decade of dorm renovations begin.

Although it lacks lodging, Porter Square has a history with hotels -- literally. It was named after the Porter House Hotel, long gone now, that specialized in a cut of beef known as the porterhouse steak.

In Somerville, developers have until Monday to file bids for a hotel on a public parking lot on Day Street near the Somerville Theatre. The site was up for grabs in 2008, along with two other city-owned lots, but Somerville pulled the plug on that request for proposals.

"Unfortunately, almost right after we started the process the economy collapsed," said Mayor Joseph Curtatone. "We thought the timing was good now with the economy growing and as interest in investing in Somerville continues to grow stronger."

A pre-recession study by a hotel industry consultant, Pinnacle Advisory Group of Boston, found that Davis Square could support a modest-sized hotel with about 100 or so rooms.

"Davis Square really has reached international attention ... people say it's what Harvard Square used to be like," Curtatone said. "We're really excited and think the opportunity is right."


(c)2013 the Boston Herald

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