A ‘Unique’ Site for Sunsets

Tuesday February 06, 2024

Plum Island Grille -1

NEWBURY – If you ever enjoyed a cocktail at the Plum Island Grille watching the sun set over the marsh, you’ve had a taste of the joy might bring of calling that space your own.
The Grille at 2 Sunset Dr. on the western edge of the island is closed, and Realtor Frank Bertolino is trying to sell the property for $2.25 million.
What is not clear is whether the old Grille property will be a new restaurant or some spectacular housing.
Although he has had an equal number of inquiries about the property from restaurateurs and home builders, Bertolino with North Shore Realty is betting on residential – maybe three or even four, two-story condos that offer views of the salt marsh and even the Atlantic Ocean from a rooftop deck.
Or it might become the prized, 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot beach house along with an ancillary apartment for a 1 percenter who wants to live on Plum Island. It likely would cost several million dollars.
The three or four condos that might be built on the property could sell for $1.6 to $2 million each, Bertolino said.
“It is going to be interesting,” Bertolino said.
Attorney Douglas Deschenes with Finneran and Nicholson wrote a legal opinion to owner Mark Friery with Rinkoo-Tei Realty that the site is “a very unique property with significant redevelopment potential.”
The key to gaining the town of Newbury’s approval, according to Deschenes, is to make sure whatever the use for the property is no more detrimental than what was there. A similar-sized restaurant or a single-family home with an apartment are “grandfathered,” or guaranteed to be approved.
The corner lot with frontage on both Plum Island Boulevard and Sunset Drive is “mere minutes to the ocean,” Bertolino wrote. It offers “some of the best sunsets in the Newburyport area.” And it comes with a flood elevation certificate.
Plum Island is a barrier island about 11 miles long, divided between a protected nature preserve and a thriving beach community.
Residences could have 35-foot-high rooftop decks that would have views of the ocean, but would not be threatened by storms. One design might be to build parking spaces at ground level, which would raise the first level of the residence or residences above potential flood waters.
Depending on the builder’s design, there might be three, four or even six units, as long as the proposed new use will be less detrimental than the restaurant.
Finding a restaurant to buy the space is proving to be challenging. Friery and former Grille owner Frances Broadbery are still in court over numerous issues, including vandalism Broadbery allegedly committed to the Grille on his last day there. The issues are unrelated to possession of the site, which remains with Friery.
District Court Judge Peter Doyle assigned a mediator to assess the damage to the restaurant for a hearing in March. The mediator toured the Grille last week and met with Friery’s and Broadbery’s attorneys.
Damaged were several bars, including the mosaic bar in the main dining room, that appear to the Newbury Police officers to have been cut out with electric saws. A contractor Friery hired estimated that it would take $192,000 to repair the damage.
“I would have already sold it if it weren’t torn up,” Bertolino said.

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