Though many Allston residents welcomed the addition of an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant to Western Ave., others expressed concern that Harvard’s recent leases have not replaced the neighborhood’s loss of retail businesses at an Allston Civic Association meeting last night.
“I don’t have a problem with that particular restaurant,” local resident Sal Pinchera said. “But I think it’s going to be used by people from outside the community. I think [residents] use Kmart more than they use a sushi restaurant.”
Though the sushi buffet slated to open this summer did not require formal approval, Maki Maki presented its business plan and architectural design to the ACA last night as a courtesy to residents.
Maki Maki is one of the 11 Allston properties Harvard has leased over the past year, as outlined in the University’s three part plan to reinvigorate Western Ave. Many Harvard-owned properties there have been left vacant since the University halted construction on the Allston Science Complex in Dec. 2009 due to financial constraints.
The buffet will occupy a vacant commercial property in the Brighton Mills Shopping Center on Western Ave.
Maki Maki owner Li Jiang and his associate Paul Wang said they aim to integrate the restaurant into the community and hope to attract local university students with its budget prices.
Maki Maki will not serve alcohol, which garnered the approval of several residents.
At a previous meeting, ACA members voted against Stone Hearth Pizza Co.—a local family-style restaurant chain that recently leased a Harvard-owned property in Allston—because of its plan to serve beer and wine.
Maki Maki will offer seating for 180 people and will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Wang added that the new business will create around 30 new jobs.
However, some Allston residents worried that the restaurant’s operations—such as the smell from its dumpsters and food deliveries—will disturb the residences abutting the property.
“Even if [residents] enjoy going to the restaurant, they may not enjoy living near it,” Pinchera said.
Allston resident Tom Puglia said that he believes Maki Maki will bring variety to the community, which does not currently offer sushi.
“[Maki Maki] is different,” Puglia said. “There are pizza joints up the street, but there’s nothing like it in this area. The closest place to get sushi is probably across the [Charles] River.”
However, he emphasized that he does not want Western Ave. to become only a restaurant hot spot and instead desires more businesses that cater to the everyday needs of residents.
University spokesperson Lauren Marshall highlighted the activity and liveliness the restaurant will add to Western Ave.
“This new business will bring great cuisine, new jobs, and invigorate this corner of Brighton Mills Shopping Center,” Marshall wrote in an email.
—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Nathalie R. Miraval can be reached at email@example.com.