The Middle East, a storied music venue and restaurant complex in Cambridge’s Central Square, could soon make way for a hotel with space for new music stages.
Development plans filed to Cambridge officials propose a six-story hotel with basement and ground-floor music venues, along with a restaurant and bar on the top level, at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Brookline Street. The ground floor would also include three retail spaces, the plans show.
Rumors around the future of The Middle East have swirled for years, with reports in early 2020 — just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns — that the building’s owners were exploring a sale and potential redevelopment. Those plans have now kicked back into gear for the complex, which also includes multiple restaurants and a convenience store.
Nabil Sater of Sater Realty LLC has applied to demolish the single-story building at 6 Brookline St., and plans for the proposed hotel show a future “Middle East Music Venue” on the basement level and a music venue on the ground floor. The hotel would have about 100 rooms on four floors, plans show, and the building would be about 80 feet tall.
The Middle East began as a Lebanese restaurant next door to rock venue T.T. the Bear’s Place before legendary music promoter Billy Ruane urged Sater and his brother Joseph to allow for live music at their space as well. The Saters eventually bought The Middle East property, which included the T.T. the Bear’s space, for $7.1 million in 2014. The next year, lease negotiations between the Saters and T.T. the Bear’s owner Bonney Bouley fell through and the music club shuttered. The brothers later replaced the T.T.’s space with a venue named Sonia. The city of Cambridge renamed the square in front of what’s now Sonia “Billy Ruane Square” in 2018.
Nabil Sater wasn’t immediately available for an interview, nor was CSQ Realty’s Patrick Barrett, one of the developers behind the hotel and music venue project.
Gritty, funky Central Square has seen a number of changes in recent years, with the addition of a small-footprint Target store and a pickup spot for Amazon packages on Mass. Ave, as well as a 308-unit apartment building at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Columbia Street that opened in 2020. Several restaurants and bars closed for good during COVID and another Central Square music institution — The Cantab Lounge — went up for sale and re-opened under new ownership last year, spruced up from its previous iteration.
The Middle East proposal was scheduled to be discussed at a meeting of the Cambridge Historical Commission on Thursday, but the developers have requested postponing of the hearing. The next Cambridge Historical Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 6.