'Shops' Sign Removed From Square

Controversial Structure Taken Out Permanently on Monday

Without warning, the notoriously conspicuous Shops by Harvard Yard sign in front of the Holyoke Center turned up missing yesterday morning, leaving students and residents to rejoice at the passing of the Square's biggest eyesore.

Late Monday night, Harvard Real Estate removed the sign that had stood in front of Au Bon Pain since the Holyoke Center mini-mall opened last October.

The Disappearance was so thoroughly orchestrated that fresh brick greeted early morning shoppers and the only sign of the sign was three orange cones to warn passersby of wet cement.

"Do you hope to get it right the first time? Of course," said David Chilinski, a partner with Prellwitz/Chilinski Architects, which oversaw the project to construct the sign. "Do you always get it right? No."

According to a statement released by Harvard Real Estate, the sign was removed in anticipation of upcoming street performances in the space known as Forbes Plaza.

But while those performances are temporary, the sign's departure appears to be permanent.

"There was a recognition on Harvard Real Estate's part [when the sign was originally put up] that there may be an alternative place to put the sign," Chilinski said.

"It has something to do with a question of scale," he added. "They're trying to return the plaza to its original character.

Harvard spokesperson Jonathan B. New said he agrees with Chilinski's assessment.

"The sign was erected knowing that it would probably be modified," New said.

But New said the sign, rumored to have cost$100,000, will not be entirely discarded.

New said a smaller version of the sign, usingparts from the original, will be placed at thecorner of Massachusetts Avenue and Dunster Streetlater spring.

He did not say how much removing and rebuildingthe sign would cost.

The decision to remove the sign was made byHarvard Real Estate Vice President Melanie Ray inconsultation with President Kristin S. Demong. Raydid not return calls or answer a visitor at heroffice.

New said Ray and Demong determined that asmaller sign in a new location will be better forthe shops.

But the sign's modern, sharpedged look drewcomplaints from Square regulars who believed itclashed with its surroundings.

"Harvard has been around for 350 years," MarkGauthier, a chaplain for the United Ministry atHarvard, said in September. "This modern art stuffis trendy--it's a '90s thing, and it's going to beout."

Chilinski called the negative reaction to thesign for Shops by Harvard Yard "rather notorious"but said it was "not entirely unusual."

"Signage is the hardest part in development andrenovation projects," Chilinski said.

The decision to move the sign was announced ata general retail tenants meeting on Mondaymorning, New said.

But not all tenants knew about it.

"I heard that people said the sign wasdangerous but I didn't know it was coming down,"said Terry Chan, owner of Time Zone.

Still, not everyone seemed upset about thedisappearance.

"I didn't even know it was gone," said SeanAlexander, owner of Sweet Stuff