I think that's a very accurate assessment and I clearly see that with my two millennial children. You can expand the notion well beyond Harvard Square, simply look at the malls and brick-and-mortar stores in general. Why drive when you can click? I'm doing it now ...With regard to a), I would guess fewer 19-25-y.o.'s "browse" for these things anymore; many of such are simply downloaded on-demand / ordered from Amazon. And in terms of b), I suspect most kids look up ratings on google maps or yelp in advance...there's much less trial-and-error. These, to me, are fundamental behavioral shifts that wouldn't have jibed with the old square (nostalgic as I am).
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.
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.
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.
There's a vast middle ground between these two points. A lot of what "made Harvard Harvard" was wrapped up in nightlife, music scene, protest culture, restaurant and bar culture, and the unique shops. The music scene has long moved on, scattered between Allston, Union Square, and Central Square. The nightlife has gradually dwindled away, but it's also dwindling away in most parts of Boston outside of downtown. The protest culture has mostly moved online; young people can't be bothered to protest with their feet most of the time. Restaurants and a few unique shops are all Harvard has left of its old soul.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.
This is true. Kenmore is truly dead. Harvard is alive but losing the last pieces of its old soul. Harvard is still a "place" that people visit to walk, shop, eat, and play. Kenmore has become just a transportation hub at a busy intersection with a hotel that is adjacent to the ballpark.Could be worse. Could be Kenmore.