It seems like Cambridge is starting to make moves to “renovate” the Harvard Square Kiosk. Given that, I wanted to take a moment to look over the notes taken at a July 29th meeting and offer up notes of my own.
One comment notes that there “feels like there’s no reason for me to be there; not peaceful or relaxing; would rather hang out in the Brattle Square area.”
To which I’d reply that this isn’t necessarily an area that’s supposed to be peaceful or relaxing. If you want to relax, you can walk five feet and put yourself in front of the Smith Campus Center and where Au Bon Pain used to be. Or, if you do want to relax, then the area should wind its policy back to early Menino days and encourage more buskers and artists to perform in The Pit. Having listened to musicians perform there more than once, I can testify to the pleasantness with which the act is pulled off — anything else would seem to suggest an expansion of the space that would otherwise severely disrupt Mass. Ave.
“Plaza feels very disjointed; we should unify what the Plaza and Kiosk do.”
How can an area as small as the Plaza feel disjointed? There are four things active in the area — Out Of Town News, The Pit, the foot traffic that emerges from the T, and the foot traffic that emerges from the businesses near the area, i.e., the Starbucks, and the like. If anything were to change in the area, I’d suggest swapping out the Starbucks with something else — one wouldn’t necessarily want the Starbucks over the Square to become the equivalent of Costa Coffee and the Princes Street Gardens.
I’d also discourage tour guides from gathering in the area.
“Not enough bike racks — had to park near Pete’s Coffee.”
A small set of bike racks could be useful in the area.
“Kiosk is not as engaged with the life of the Plaza; the space should be open and engaged.”
Would it be possible to open up Out Of Town News in such a way that it would still ensure the historic preservation of the building site itself?
And while there are a decent amount of voices advocating for the preservation of the funkiness of the area — voices which should be applauded — this is not the purpose of this piece. The purpose of this piece is to engage voices that suggest that the area should be given things like a —
“Welcome center for people to see history of the area [as well as] Interactive elements — old and new — augmented reality and virtual reality showing how the Kiosk was built.”
— which is a terrible idea. Welcome Centers presume and prioritize a level of tourist identity and tourism that would disrupt and anesthetize the vibrancy and eclecticism of the lives of people who live nearby and in the surrounding area. No one is suggesting replacing Somerville Theater with a Somerville Theater Welcome Center and VR Center, so why should the same assumption be made about Harvard Square?
If history is to be highlighted in any way, I’d suggest taking the information booth in the area and covering it with a slowly rotating collection of photographs chronicling the past, the near present, and the present life of the area.
I second whoever said this —
“ Should be organic; public place with mission and management structures; no dedication other than to be public place; should let things happen naturally in it; we can establish this mission and management structures; can’t impose what’s going on in it”
— though I have no objection to the incorporation/encouragement of things like this —
“Could hold something like a Harvard Square chocolate festival — restaurants participating could offer something with chocolate; or participating restaurants could offer something related to a historical idea”