First comes the food.
The developer of Somerville’s $1.5 billion Assembly Row has signed three restaurants to be among the first businesses to open at the sprawling new retail and residential district being built on the Mystic River waterfront.
The restaurants — Burger Dive, Papagayo, and Legal C Bar — will open during the next two years in a cluster of new buildings that will also include more than 450 residences, a 12-screen AMC movie theater and other stores. Burger Dive could be open as early as next month in an existing building on the property.
Executives with Federal Realty Investment Trust, the project’s developer, emphasized that all three restaurants are based in Massachusetts, bolstering their goal to have Assembly Row be a home-spun dining and entertainment destination.
“These are the best restaurateurs in this market,” said Don Briggs, manager of the project for Federal Realty. He added that Papagayo and Legal C Bar will be located in buildings along the Mystic River, helping to bring crowds to the long desolate riverfront.
Assembly Row, named for the former Ford Motor Co. factory that operated there, is planned to be a 66-acre mini city in Somerville that will eventually include nine blocks of outlet stores, restaurants, residences, office buildings, a hotel, and a revitalized 6-acre park along the Mystic.
The MBTA is also building a new Orange Line train station at the property’s edge.
The new restaurants and stores will be a short walk from the train station. Legal C Bar is a compact version of Legal Sea Foods that features crabs, calamari, clams, and cod. It currently has two other locations, in Dedham and at Logan International Airport.
Papagayo and Burger Dive will be the 11th and 12th restaurants opened by Legendary Restaurant Group, which also operates Max & Dylans, Scollay Square, and Tavern on the Water in Charlestown, among others. This will be the company’s second Papagayo, adding to the existing location on Summer Street in Boston’s Fort Point Channel neighborhood.
Chris Damian, co-owner of Legendary Restaurant Group, said the Papagayo at Assembly Row will have a dining area overlooking the water. “Our vision is to have open doors, so it’s flowing space between the patio and the restaurant,” Damian said. “This is a great opportunity to showcase our brands in one of the largest new developments on the Eastern Seaboard.”
The effort to redevelop the former industrial property on the Somerville-Charlestown line suffered a setback earlier this year with the loss of the furniture giant Ikea, which canceled plans to open a massive store at the redevelopment. Ikea is now selling its 12-acre section of the property. Federal Realty is among potential buyers to express interest.
Briggs, Federal Realty’s project manager, said construction is moving swiftly on Assembly Row’s first three buildings — a retail and theater complex and two residential buildings with 450 apartments by AvalonBay Communities Inc.
“The foundations are poured and we should have steel to the site by October,” he said. Those buildings — which will contain Papagayo and Legal C Bar — are scheduled to open by spring 2014.