BEDFORD — Surf Restaurant owner Michael Buckley said he has no intention of opening a restaurant at the new Market & Main complex, though developers mentioned him to town planners as a future tenant at the site.
“It was falsely presented to them,” said Buckley, who was surprised to learn that the Surf logo was also attached to conceptual design plans distributed at the meeting this week.
Buckley, chef and owner of Michael Timothy’s Dining Group, acknowledges that he reached out to Encore Retail last year to inquire about space at Market & Main along South River Road, and spoke with a few representatives about the possibility. He last spoke with them in August.
“That is as far as it went,” he said. “ … I kind of moved on from that project.” Buckley is now planning to expand and open a Surf at Woburn Village in Woburn, Mass.
Jon Levenstein, chairman of the Bedford Planning Board, said the “misrepresentation” is unfortunate, especially since there is already a sense within the community that the Market & Main project is a “bait and switch,” now that 200 apartments are being proposed for the mixed-use site. Apartments were not included in the original site plan.
Levenstein emphasized that he does not have a bait-and-switch perception of the project.
“I am disappointed in the fact that we were told something initially and now we are being told that is not the case,” Levenstein said of Buckley being included in the list of tenants that have either signed a letter of intent or a lease.
Mike Nelson of Encore Retail, who was not at this week’s planning board meeting, said Wednesday that the presentation made to planning officials should have focused on the conceptual design and not included the names of tenants or even potential tenants.
“They used one of our marketing pieces without us knowing, really … the leasing and those names involved should not have even been discussed,” said Nelson.
He said Encore had been in discussions with Surf, but never signed a deal.
“If it isn’t Surf, it is going to be somebody like that, or better, in that spot,” said Nelson.
In addition to Surf, Wahlburgers was also included in the list of restaurant tenant.
In an email to the Union Leader, Katie Piepiora, director of communications with Wahlburgers, said, “While we would love to expand into New Hampshire and bring Wahlburgers to fans there, we do not currently have a signed lease agreement in the state.”
Nelson acknowledged Wednesday that Encore Retail has been talking with Wahlburgers, but hasn’t worked out a deal.
Becky Hebert, town planning director, said planning officials will be asking Encore to clarify the matter at its next meeting with them in March.
She said Surf, as well as Wahlburgers restaurant, “were definitely part of their pitch to the community” during Monday’s meeting.
Attorney John Cronin, on behalf of Encore, told town planners at the meeting that people have continuously been asking about tenants.
“We have also done some things probably not typical of a project at this stage of its development where you have retail tenants that have signed commitments — either letters of intent or some kind of contingent leasing that relate to occupancy and build-out and time,” Cronin said while unveiling a layout that also included US Cellular, OshKosh B’gosh and Carter’s, Bedford Spa, Ulta Beauty, Sport Clips, Athleta, Charles Schwab, Pressed Cafe, European Wax and Regal Cinema.
Nelson said that several of those tenants have not yet signed official leases, but deals are in the works.
Jonathan Lapat with SRS Real Estate Partners said Thursday that OshKosh, another retailer that was mentioned to town planners as a future tenant, will not be expanding into Bedford.
“We talked briefly to the developer about a year ago, but are not planning to open a store here,” he said.