Cursed Corner?

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charred remains are all that's left of comida mercado fresco mexican restaurant, which occupied the ground floor of 461 columbus ave., at west 82nd street. a fire tore through the building's basement on july 13 at around 3 a.m., destroying the months-old mexican eatery. according to building owner richard casanas (pictured), a homeless man first saw the early morning blaze and alerted sleeping residents by yelling outside the building.

"he's the hero of the day," said casanas, who remains hopeful that comida will return. "whenever something like this happens i look at it in a positive light, such as creative destruction."

the owners of comida, which opened in march, declined to comment. casanas said he's hoping to get the place cleaned up quickly.

the corner property has had a string of bad luck, and seems unable to sustain a restaurant tenant. charlie palmer's cheap-chic kitchen 82, which opened in 2003, was taken over by irish pub tj o'brien in 2006. the pub lasted about a year, and was replaced by madaleine mae, a southern-style grill and breakfast joint, in 2007.

casanas, for one, thinks future tenants need to focus more on catering to residents, rather than destination diners.

"it is my view that when the right combination of management and concept come in, it will succeed," he said. "it's a neighborhood restaurant. you have to create it for the neighborhood first and foremost before you cater to other people."

photo by andrew schwartz

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