UPDATED, Oct. 3: Arlington Center, dotted with vacant storefronts since 2014, is finding renewed life.
Spurring the changes, in part, is a town bylaw aimed encouraging landlords, with a registration fee and potential fines, as well as an uptick in overall business activity. Here are some specific signs:
-- The site of Elton's Roast Beef at Swan Place, closed last spring, plans to open in November after selectmen approved its license Sept. 25, offering takeout, limited seating serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The owners have already posted a photo showing former Boston Mayor Tom Menino smiling while holding an enormous lobster roll at the spot tentatively named for its address, 478 Mass. Ave.
-- A few doors away, in two long-empty storefronts, Elise Caira, an Arlington Catholic grad, plans to open SweatFixx on Saturday, Sept. 30. The boutique fitness studio, which focuses on rowing and sculpting, becomes her second, in addition to her Wakefield location.
17 vacancies in '15 drop to 5
"I am excited to see new businesses opening in the Center, and they are a welcome addition to Arlington," Ali Carter, the town's economic coordinator, told YourArlington. "While many of the property owners in the Center have been actively looking for new tenants, I think the vacant storefront bylaw has motivated others to fill their empty storefronts."
Thus far, the 17 vacancies identified in Arlington Center in June 2015 have been reduced to five as of this month, Carter has reported.
Notable among the latest changes is the fact that two of the landlords long with the most vacancies in the Center have found tenants. They are Diane Poulos Harpell, who leased space for SweatFixx, and James Cohen, the landlord for the former Elton's space.
A third high-vacancy landlord, Patricia Simboli, has reshaped a closed CVS with Caffé Nero and brought Twyrl to the space once occupied by the Madrona Tree.
Other shifts nearby
The changes listed above are not the only ones in the Center below Pleasant. Consider:
-- Collier Cacciola Real Estate now occupies an office next to SweatFixx.
-- The Town Barber Shop, at 458 Mass. Ave., has been open for months. Both the real estate office and barber shop are Poulos properties.
-- A few doors away, the owner of Punjabi Tadka, now distinguished from nearby Punjab, has a new name -- Singh Saab -- under a new owner.
In the block west of Pleasant, Mamadou Bakery, based in Winchester, is opening a new location at 677 Mass. Ave., which was formerly Tula. The shop, close to opening, expected a health inspection this week.
Moving away from Arlington Center, other shifts among business properties are afoot:
-- A smoothie place called The Green Light received selectmen's approval for a license Sept. 25. It plans to open in the former location of Something Sweet Without Wheat, at 169 Mass. Ave., East Arlington, where the bakery used to be.
-- In the Heights, Bennett Family Eye Care, long of Belmont, has opened a new office at the former Diggum's ice cream location, at Mass. Ave. and Park.
-- In the next block as you head west on Mass. Ave., The Granola Bowl Cafe is in the process of opening inside of artlounge Arlington. The 19-seat café plans to be open daily, weekdays 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., serving light breakfast items, including granola, yogurt, smoothies, fresh fruit, muffins and oatmeal.
-- Across the street, Lakota Bakery changed its name after 26 years to Cookie Time Bakery, as reported first in August >>
The changes in the Center and beyond brought a smile to Selectmen Chairman Joseph Curro Jr. Referring to the license for the former Elton's space, he said Sept. 25, "I'm happy to see an empty storefront filled."
As license applicants for 478 Mass. Ave., David Spinney of Woburn and Joseph Marcus of Franklin brought enthusiasm, humor and name-dropping.
Marcus promised a menu that roast-beef and pizza-heavy Elton's never offered -- seafood, with 1 1/2- to seven-pound lobsters, some stuffed with caviar.
He continued: Delmonico's steak, chowder and "Korean soup that will knock your socks off."
He called new spot "one crazy place .... the biggest little restaurant in America .... We can't want to get started."
As the owner of a sandwich shop in Beverly, Marcus said his guests included former President Clinton, actor Danny DeVito and film director Steven Spielberg, among many.
The excitement was palpable.
Menu details are included among these documents >>
The partners, doing business as Food for Thought LLC, expect to have no outside seating. They have not applied for a liquor license, but may do in the future.
Green Light gets green light
Also receiving a 5-0 board vote of approval for his license, but in relative calm, was Derek Fleming, wearing a Superman shirt and appearing with his dad. The Green Light, a vegan juice bar in East Arlington, will become the company's fourth locations. Others are in Belmont, Hingham and Duxbury.
The local restaurant, to be open for breakfast and lunch, selling only plant-based fare. You will be able to create your own vegetable juice. Menu details are included among these documents >>
Want to know about SweatFixx?
The spot focuses on low-impact movement with high-intensity workouts, using water rowers. "This is a workout that everyone can do," Caira said in a news release. "Our classes are filled with people who haven't worked out before sitting next to people who work out every day."
To celebrate their grand opening, classes Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 are free. Book a time on sweatfixx.com.
Caira started SweatFixx in Wakefield last January, leaving her job in corporate finance.
VACANCIES: HISTORY, RESOURCES
Commercial vacancies, trend/analysis, June 2015
Town listing, May 2017
Download the vacancy bylaw >>
Opinion, Aug. 3, 2016: Center have you down? Here's what you can do
Aug. 22, 2014: Vacant -- but waiting to be occupied with your ideas
This news summary was published Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, and updated Oct. 3, to clarify Singh Saab situation.
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