Cambridge Planning Board Recommends Campus Center Plans

City officials discuss Out of Town News kiosk in meeting this week

The Cambridge Planning Board this week voted unanimously to recommend Harvard’s plans to renovate the Smith Campus Center to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeal, moving the major construction plans one step closer to city approval.

Among the proposed plans discussed at the board meeting on Tuesday include the proposed remodeling of the campus center’s front facade, where the restaurant Au Bon Pain currently resides, and other modifications to the space, according to Cambridge Community Planning Director Stuart Dash. The Cambridge Historical Commission approved the University’s plans in April.

Smith Campus Center Front
A preliminary rendering of the renovated Smith Campus Center shows a remodeled front facade, where restaurant Au Bon Pain is currently located.

Remodeling of the Smith Center—the building at 1350 Massachusetts Ave. previously known as the Holyoke Center—is expected to begin in 2016 and go through 2018. As of January, plans for the campus center include a network of meeting spaces, common spaces, and express elevators, as well as a redesigns of the first, second, and 10th floors. Administrators have lauded the plans as key to establishing a central campus space for students, faculty, and other University affiliates.

The Tuesday meeting was one of two scheduled this week to discuss the renovation of various public spaces in Harvard Square. On Wednesday, Cambridge’s Community Development Department held a public forum to discuss the future of the iconic Out of Town News kiosk across from Harvard Yard.

As part of a larger city-wide initiative to improve public spaces, Cambridge officials are currently assessing how to make the Out of Town News kiosk space function better “as a public realm, ” according to Dash. Currently, the Out of Town News kiosk is privately owned, but the lease on the 500 square foot property will soon expire.

Part of the city’s plans to rejuvenate the space include adding more tables and chairs closer to the kiosk, which in hopes of better engaging users with the space, Dash said.

Unnamed photo
Out of Town News.

The project’s architect, Theodore Galante, spoke at the meeting Wednesday and shared his plans for rebuilding the physical space, including lowering brick areas and making the space a “glowing gem of a box” through the use of glass panels.

Architectural plans for the kiosk, Galante said, must work to beautify the kiosk, as well as to preserve its historical look.

One of the potential problems of kiosk revival, according to Assistant City Planner Ellen Kokinda, includes “kiosk programming” and how to generate revenue from the space. Current plans for this include installing screens on the kiosk to display advertisements and hiring “Harvard Square ambassadors”—paid employees that will be responsible for bringing information services “to a human scale.”

—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at jalincunningham@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.

Tags