Harvard Sq Abuzz: The Good, the Bad & the Cheesy

New bikeway in Harvard Sq: Last week saw the first phase of the installation of a two-way parking-protected bike lane on Brattle Street between Mason Street and Brattle Square. With paint and new signage alone, we created a new link in the bike network and acknowledged a longstanding “desire line” for contra-flow bike traffic entering the Square from the west. Fine-tuning will continue and plastic bollards marking the lane’s buffer zone will be installed soon. While there have been questions about the wisdom of allowing two-way bike traffic and predictable objections to reducing car travel from two lanes to one, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The Council has received dozens of messages like this one:
I bike to and from Harvard Sq fairly frequently to eat, socialize, to catch the train, and enjoy the cultural offerings that Cambridge has to offer. It’s a big deal, because I live in Watertown, and literally NOTHING happens in Watertown, if you don’t have kids and you’re in your 30’s like my husband and I. My friends also sometimes bike to my house in Watertown, and they love Brattle Street! It’s pretty safe at night, it’s really historic and handsome, and the road surface and lanes are nice! … And NOW, it even has this amazing protected bike lane which helps get you through the heart of one of the busiest squares in the city! Yes!!! I am not only excited because of direct transit, I am excited because this is one more chance for my pals and myself to ride safely, and I can just about guarantee that this lane is going to save lives. It is important work you are doing and that you have done, and I am so excited I get to live next to Cambridge, because you guys are totally bike friendly and awesome. I’m going to keep visiting your city and giving your business’ my money, and I’m going to keep loving you for keeping it real for cycling!! I have a car, and I drive it to Boston at least 2X as often as Cambridge, because Boston streets will kill me on a bike, but Cambridge feels pretty gosh darned OK on 2 wheels! Thanks!!!  

The other shoe drops: The revelation that the Dow Stearns Trust is seeking to sell off its real estate holdings at the epicenter of Harvard Square (1-8 Brattle and 17-41A Brattle St) for at least $95M sent shock waves through the community. With the Curious George/Urban Outfitters and the Church St theater projects already in the development pipeline, the sale of such a large chunk of the Square raises the prospect of three major redevelopments happening simultaneously, an unprecedented wave of change. In Cambridge Day’s coverage I am quoted:

“The proverbial other shoe has dropped in Harvard Square, an inevitable consequence of the same family trust’s record-setting sale in 2015 of its other linchpin property across Brattle Street,” city councillor Jan Devereux said. “Major changes in ownership and tenancy like the ones we are seeing in Harvard Square can have a destabilizing effect on neighborhoods.”

But Devereux also sees a silver lining, saying the changes present an opportunity to revitalize Harvard Square, and that there is renewed urgency to review the Harvard Square Conservation District guidelines (which apply to both properties) and to update the zoning to “preserve the character, history and diversity” of the square.

Pizza as a lifestyle choice? WBZ-TV News reporter Jon Keller was in Harvard Square this week to report on the “deep dish of controversy” served up by the revival of the proposal to open an &pizza fast casual restaurant (now with a separate counter and cash register for a “milk bar” operated by the Momofuku chain) at 1-8 Brattle St, formerly home of Crimson Corner and Tory Row. Keller interviewed me briefly about &pizza’s marketing hype. My quip: “I think they’re trying to create something through branding that may be lost on the average pizza consumer,” said Cambridge City Councilor Jan Devereux. “Even here in Harvard Square.” See the WBZ video and story. Disclaimer: Keller insisted I leave my bike helmet on for the interview — I guess he felt it added to the local color.


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Jan Devereux
City Councillor
Cambridge, MA