Harvard Square Infill and Small Developments

Charlie_mta

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I agree ^. Harvard Square is finished. It was a great hangout place for me in the 1960s when I was in high school, but times change and it's been absorbed into the corporate borg. Good bye and thank you for the memories.
 

Suffolk 83

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I havent consistently gone to Harvard square for a very long time so its still decent to me- Charlies Kitchen, Red House for $1 oysters, Pinocchios, Russel House for nicer drinks and food, Felipe's rooftop, Grendel's for cheap food. I agree it has basically no good stores at this point though
 

FK4

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I agree ^. Harvard Square is finished. It was a great hangout place for me in the 1960s when I was in high school, but times change and it's been absorbed into the corporate borg. Good bye and thank you for the memories.
The article is dead on bemoaning the corporate takeover of Hvd Sq... same problem with Coolidge Corner. I don't agree that it's totally dead, though... it's certainly less funky than when I was younger, and assuredly that was less funky than when YOU were younger, but it still retains a lot of good character. It's still full of young people, there still are good bookstores, and there's a smattering of good spots to go. I had drinks til closing in Charlie's last weekend and it was delightfully empty, just a few old regulars and a couple college kids. Felt the same as it always does.

But, the trends need to be resisted. The destruction of good urbanism is one trend amidst so many intolerable processes ruining the world that local governments can actually do a lot about. There absolutely needs to be ordinances preventing banks from gobbling up storefronts. This is something an ordinance can do. And, really, there should be further statutes designating "high importance zones" whereby any proposed business has to show that his/her new shop would actively contribute to the sidewalk atmosphere... so the other usual culprits like CVS and cell phone stores can't just keep up their bad work, either.

Then, the very, very real problem of hypocritical policies that prevent development and drive up prices to the point only the chains can win in the end should be addressed as well. Like the above, zones could be designated whereby there was a much higher bar for review of permits for any business that was part of a national chain. And, of course, better zoning, higher heights, freer development of housing etc etc. We forget the fact that all the 'good squares' were themselves once dusty corners... an intersection like Prospect @ Kirkland could, for example, become a proper square in its own right if the area was rezoned for more commercial space. ..........
 

DAVE

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This is what happens when the speculative market meets the era of online shopping and shifting shopping behavior. It's not the exact same situation, but Dudley Square is seeing the same issues where speculation is causing rents to rise beyond what the market can bare, but Banks can almost always withstand these rents and because of CRA they feel obligated to open branches to meet their requirements despite most people only using online banking and physical branch locations are outdated. CRA seriously needs to be updated, but also need a form of retail rent control that lessens burden of speculation.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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This is happening all over NYC and I'm sure every city in the US. It will be interesting to see what eventually happens to these places when we don't need as much retail.
 

DAVE

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This is happening all over NYC and I'm sure every city in the US. It will be interesting to see what eventually happens to these places when we don't need as much retail.
I don't think it will go away completely. I think smaller square footages and more pop up styles make sense in this market.

Cities/states etc. have been really too lenient on shipping like Amazon etc. in terms of the externalities they don't bear. I mean, just look at the 'Seeing Red' series that showed that one UPS truck had how many tickets? and then the traffic it causes. In terms of pollution (especially with Amazon's 1 day shipping) and then amazon's fleet roaming around all day. These are externalities that we (the public) are bearing but it should be on the companies to bear the price, and in turn make online shopping more costly because it is in fact very costly. Instead of these conversations we've just accepted Amazon as reality, and let small businesses and places like Harvard Square die.

Its the same with Uber.. but thats another conversation.
 

FK4

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I don't think it will go away completely. I think smaller square footages and more pop up styles make sense in this market.

Cities/states etc. have been really too lenient on shipping like Amazon etc. in terms of the externalities they don't bear. I mean, just look at the 'Seeing Red' series that showed that one UPS truck had how many tickets? and then the traffic it causes. In terms of pollution (especially with Amazon's 1 day shipping) and then amazon's fleet roaming around all day. These are externalities that we (the public) are bearing but it should be on the companies to bear the price, and in turn make online shopping more costly because it is in fact very costly. Instead of these conversations we've just accepted Amazon as reality, and let small businesses and places like Harvard Square die.

Its the same with Uber.. but thats another conversation.
Yes. Like all of society's ills (climate change, war, poverty, etc) we generally turn a blind eye to the root causes, then get surprised/outraged when we get the results we should have expected all along.
 

DBM

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Wow, a whole 10 weeks passed until I had an excuse to repost this!

"As I've noted upthread, I couldn't disagree more--there's still so much that's unique and captivating about Harvard Sq. in terms of restaurants/nightlife/general ambiance and I don't think it's lost a thread of "authenticity," however one wishes to define it.

As for "outstanding experiences of the 1960s and 70s": my mother was at school there from 1964-68. You know what she likes to talk about when she remembers the scene from back then? Just how much misplaced nostalgia there is for that time. According to her, all of those fabled diners were shabby and the whole scene was rather dingy. (Mind you, she was coming from LA, where so much of the built environment had just been built...). She's not a curmudgeon and I'm quite sure she had a great time in school there--just being a realist. And, I hardly think she's alone among Baby Boomers in thinking there's way too much sentimentality attached to the Harvard Sq. of that time."
 

odurandina

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1971 was more desirable than this.
Good: 1 Amazon truck eliminated 168 car trips today.
Bad: the glorious: genuine, sexy, real, fake, grimy, frothy, trendy, trappy, nifty/thrifty, wth, newspaper stands, book stores, foodies, restaurants and the people, (gone).
Do less young people go out? Sometimes i think so.
 

DAVE

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1971 was more desirable than this.
Good: 1 Amazon truck eliminated 168 car trips today.
Bad: the glorious: genuine, sexy, real, fake, grimy, frothy, trendy, trappy, nifty/thrifty, wth, newspaper stands, book stores, foodies, restaurants and the people, (gone).
Do less young people go out? Sometimes i think so.
This assumes the convenience and low cost of Amazon shipping doesn't induce greater amounts of shopping than would have happened otherwise-->. So im interested in this 1:168 figure.
 

odurandina

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Hard to know how many trips it saves....
"I worked amazon at Boston area..I did average 200 stops/255 packages a day..is tiring and demanding!!"
^^
but i do like the premise of the implied geometry.
At the same time you don't like seeing malls and iconic squares turning into ghost towns.
 
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Johnnyrocket891

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Looks like Bill and Ted’s Elevator just transported into Harvard square.
The character of Harvard square is long gone. Way to corporate.
 

BronsonShore

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1971 was more desirable than this.
Good: 1 Amazon truck eliminated 168 car trips today.
Bad: the glorious: genuine, sexy, real, fake, grimy, frothy, trendy, trappy, nifty/thrifty, wth, newspaper stands, book stores, foodies, restaurants and the people, (gone).
Do less young people go out? Sometimes i think so.
Bookstores
There are currently 6 bookstores within a five minute walk of each other in Harvard Square, including one store dedicated just to poetry. I highly doubt there is another urban neighborhood anywhere in America that you can say this about.

Restaurants
There's probably a greater concentration of great and interesting restaurants around Harvard Square than any other Boston neighborhood, save for the South End (where they're more spread out) and maybe Union Square. Alden & Harlow, Waypoint, Longfellow Bar are as trendy as it gets and all are constantly experimenting. Cafe Sushi is one of the best restaurants inside 128. Benedetto is better than just about every restaurant in the North End. And places like Charlie's, Felipe's, Le's, Santouka, and Bonchon Chicken are all cheap, fun, and great.

Grimy
Yeah, the grime is gone (and so are the newsstands). That's a shame, it's also the life cycle of urban America. But, hey, Mr. Bartley's doesn't even have a bathroom, Cafe Pamplona is a mold-filled basement, and there are two tattoo parlors. You can find a little grime if you want it.


I never saw Harvard Square in the 70's or even the 80's. I'm sure we've lost a lot of wonderful urbanity since then. But it really seems like most of the people who complain about Harvard Square today don't actually spend much time there, or any other Boston neighborhoods, for that matter - because the fact is that Harvard Square is still unique, and is still filled with life. Only Central Square and Union Square come close to comparing, but Harvard still has more life on the streets than both of them.
 
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Johnnyrocket891

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Bookstores
There are currently 6 bookstores within a five minute walk of each other in Harvard Square, including one store dedicated just to poetry. I highly doubt there is another urban neighborhood anywhere in America that you can say this about.

Restaurants
There's probably a greater concentration of great and interesting restaurants around Harvard Square than any other Boston neighborhood, save for the South End (where they're more spread out) and maybe Union Square. Alden & Harlow, Waypoint, Longfellow Bar are as trendy as it gets and all are constantly experimenting. Cafe Sushi is one of the best restaurants inside 128. Benedetto is better than just about every restaurant in the North End. And places like Charlie's, Felipe's, Le's, Santouka, and Bonchon Chicken are all cheap, fun, and great.

Grimy
Yeah, the grime is gone (and so are the newsstands). That's a shame, it's also the life cycle of urban America. But, hey, Mr. Bartley's doesn't even have a bathroom, Cafe Pamplona is a mold-filled basement, and there are two tattoo parlors. You can find a little grime if you want it.


I never saw Harvard Square in the 70's or even the 80's. I'm sure we've lost a lot of wonderful urbanity since then. But it really seems like most of the people who complain about Harvard Square today don't actually spend much time there, or any other Boston neighborhoods, for that matter - because the fact is that Harvard Square is still unique, and is still filled with life. Only Central Square and Union Square come close to comparing, but Harvard still has more life on the streets than both of them.

Harvard square is unique? What is so unique about it today? Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Chase bank, Bank of America, Santander bank, CVS, chain restaurants. Harvard square back in the 70’s and 80’s was more filter around art. An artist’s view surrounded by unique small mom & pop style business’s. That’s what created the uniqueness of all the squares.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Harvard owns all 6 bookstores just to keep that concept in place.

Harvard square today is far from unique it’s more programmed for the bots they create out of the university.
 

BronsonShore

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Harvard square is unique? What is so unique about it today? Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Chase bank, Bank of America, Santander bank, CVS, chain restaurants. Harvard square back in the 70’s and 80’s was more filter around art. An artist’s view surrounded by unique small mom & pop style business’s. That’s what created the uniqueness of all the squares.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Harvard owns all 6 bookstores just to keep that concept in place.

Harvard square today is far from unique it’s more programmed for the bots they create out of the university.
The first sentence I wrote - that it has six bookstores within a five minute walk - makes it unique. Show me another urban neighborhood in America that can say the same. Making up a conspiracy theory to refute it. . . doesn't actually refute it.
 

Life Coach Mike

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What made Harvard Sq. unique for me was not just the retail. It was primarily the wonderfully stereotypical people: the bearded. mid-aged academic reading his newspaper, and wearing a tweed jacket with elbow patches, beret, and smoking a pipe....long-haired hippy types reeking of patchouli....Hare Krishnas chanting....Goth girls with bright red lips....young women in peasant skirts and unkept hair...spectacled young people searching bookstores for the most archane of reading material...gays hanging about ZaZa's for unusual men's grooming products...elderly men and women whose homes were as much the streets and stores as anywhere. It was the reminder that I too was part of this human theater, part grime, part individualism, part sophisticate-in-the-making, but feeling at home, nonetheless.
 

odurandina

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The first sentence I wrote - that it has six bookstores within a five minute walk - makes it unique. Show me another urban neighborhood in America that can say the same. Making up a conspiracy theory to refute it. . . doesn't actually refute it.
Thanks for elucidating the book store situation.
The greater story is very sad.
Please excuse my ignorance: looking back,
could anything have been done to head off the death of Harvard Square?
Can anything be done now to incite a comeback?
 

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