Criminal and family intrigue surround Somerville hotel plans

by Tom Nash on July 21, 2010

[Originally published in The Somerville News, July 21, 2010, by Tom Nash]

A planned hotel at 371 Beacon Street has yet to begin construction, however, it is already bringing drama, mystery and criminal intrigue to a Somerville street corner.

Exactly who wants to build a 35-room hotel and restaurant on a vacant gas station lot at Beacon and Oxford streets near Porter Square is still not available in public documents. And two people involved in the project may have been involved in a felony assault earlier this year.

George Makrigiannis, a 93-year-old Cambridge landlord and pizza restaurant owner, has long been presented as the project’s steward, but former tenants of Makrigiannis say he may be acting as a front.

Kevin Bonham, a former tenant of Makrigiannis, says he understands the landlord’s hesitancy to be straightforward about the project. According to Bonham, staying in the shadows seems to be Makrigiannis’s standard procedure, choosing silence over disclosure in the three legal battles that emerged for him in the span of three months.

Since learning of the hotel plans, Bonham joined a group of his friends in suing Makrigiannis for withholding their security deposit money, joining at least seven others who have sued for similar reasons in the past three years.

After Makrigiannis failed to show up to court, a judge granted an order that entitles Bonham and his friends to more than $6,000 worth of their former landlord’s property.

But tracking him down has been difficult. Even the Makrigiannis’s identity remained obscured until after Bonham was no longer a tenant, despite meeting him personally.

“I dealt with someone who said he was George, but after we moved out we found out he was 90-something years old,” Bonham said. “I’m pretty sure the guy we dealt with was his son, Louis.”

While avoiding stolen security deposit cases has been a fact of life for the Makrigiannis family, the lawsuit filed by 371 Beacon St. abutter Seth Goodman has proven to be a new challenge.

Goodman, who filed the suit in February, chose to name both the city and “Beacon Street Hotel,” an unregistered entity listed on the permit application that attorney Rich DiGirolamo says will take shape after the project moves forward. Naming those involved could force Makrigiannis to disclose why he refuses to be listed as the applicant.

A joint statement released in late June says Goodman is ready to drop the suit if the city is notified of the proper applicant’s identity. The hotel project would also have to provide more parking, and allow a second look at the project’s traffic study and design plans.

In the midst of trying to put a hotel in Somerville, another brush with the law came in March. Police responded to a 911 call from Makrigiannis on March 16, arriving to find him with facial bruising and a “good size scratch under his left eye,” according to the police report.

While acknowledging he called for help, and that he needed police assistance, the report stated “[Makrigiannis] did not want his son’s girlfriend to get into trouble.” He declined to request a restraining order.

The alleged attacker, Katherine Ferrari, was until recently also involved in the hotel development as the owner of Dream City Real Estate, the company listed as the developer on the project’s original special permit application.

While the Middlesex District Attorney’s office pursued a felony assault charge against Ferrari, the case fell apart in June. “We couldn’t get the testimony we needed to go forward,” DA spokeswoman Cara O’Brien said.

Anne Vigorito, DiGirolamo’s law partner, took the side of Makrigiannis’s alleged attacker. Around the same time, she also became Makrigiannis’s attorney in the Land Court case.

Vigorito declined to discuss what Makrigiannis gained from having an attorney representing him in a case involving a multi-million dollar hotel project who was also defending a former partner in that project accused of assaulting him.

“One has nothing to do with the other,” Vigorito said.

Vigorito said neither Makrigiannis nor Ferrari would be available for comment.

With the assault case dismissed and a settlement in the Land Court case in the works, Bonham said he hopes to see his legal battle against Makrgiannis resolved as well. He hopes to have the execution order carried out within a month.

While Bonham and his friends have mulled asking for a lien to be put on the 371 Beacon St. property, he said he’s wary of depending on it for the money he and his friends are owed. He called the city’s approval of the hotel plans “a mistake.”

“My impression of George and Louis is they will do everything in their power to maximize their profit – by legal means or not,” Bonham added. “They really don’t give a [expletive] about anything else.”

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