Local

A historic diner is for sale, with a catch

The diner has been around for almost 80 years.

Salem Diner Tom Landers / The Boston Globe, File

Order up!

A historic diner is for sale in Salem, but with a catch — the new owner has to pick it up and place it somewhere else.  However, buying the diner building itself may not break the bank.

For almost 80 years, the Salem Diner has sat at 70 ½ Loring Ave., serving traditional diner fare and transporting patrons back to the year of its genesis, 1941. But the historic eatery, said in the past to be one of only two Sterling Streamliner Diners still in operation in the state, shuttered its doors back in May, according to The Boston Globe.

Now, Salem State University, which owns the diner, has put out a request for bids for removal of the diner with higher scores given to proposals that will keep it in city limits and reopen it as a restaurant.

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The university will also score proposals higher for offering more than $20,000 to buy the diner — an “advantageous” proposal means offering between $1,000 and $20,000 for the building.

“We’re exploring options,” Ben Szalewicz, the university’s associate vice president, told Boston.com. He noted that the scoring system for the proposals is key since it allows those reviewing them to weigh multiple facets of the project — the sale price is just part of the overall consideration.

In the short term, Salem State wants the site paved over to be used for parking once the diner is moved.

The land where the diner sits had been identified for future development in Salem State’s master vision plan, and that’s why it was purchased back in 2013. The Globe reported that the university bought the diner and its land with $600,000 from a nonprofit.

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“At the time we were not ready to develop it and our food service contractor had agreed to run it for us, so up until this spring they ran it,” Szalewicz said.

The diner filled a food service gap, providing a late-night option for students. However, SSU’s new food contract includes making one of its dining halls 24/7, according to Szalewicz.

“We never intended to run it long term,” he said. “So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to move away from the diner.”

A Merrimac, Massachusetts, company called J.B. Judkins Co. is thought to have made 16 of the diners total between 1939 and 1943, according to the university.

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The diner was placed on both the Massachusetts Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places back on Sept. 22, 1999.

“The Salem Diner is unique in Salem and rare in Massachusetts for its aerodynamic exterior styling combined with a well preserved interior,” the application to the state historic register says. “The Salem Diner reflects considerable impact on industrial design on American architecture between the Depression and World War II. … Its streamlined design is significant both for evoking the early history of diners as mobile buildings, and for its influence on the design of a subsequent generation of diners following World War II.”

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The diner has 49 seats and 1,070 square feet of space, the university said. 

The Salem community hopes the historic eatery will remain within city lines, and reopen as a restaurant, according to Szalewicz.

“There used to be quite a bit of manufacturing around it so that it was a staple there for the manufacturing community, and then to the larger community over the years,” he said.

When the university released its plans for the diner during the spring, there was “quite a bit of interest in the building.”

Eventually, some sort of mixed-use building is planned to go on the diner’s land, Szalewicz said, the details of which are yet to be determined.

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“That’s quite a few years away from now,” he said.