&pizza and Milk Bar Partnership Obtains Initial Approval

&pizza Rendering
A rendering of the proposed &pizza; and Milk Bar location in Harvard Square.

In the latest twist in &pizza;’s quest to open in the Brattle St. location that formerly housed newsstand Crimson Corner and restaurant Tory Row, the D.C.-based pizza chain has received preliminary approval for a Harvard Square location.

The Cambridge Planning Board earlier this month voted to approve the proposed restaurant, a partnership between &pizza; and Milk Bar, a dessert bakery based in New York.

It said the revised proposal included “specific and material changes”—a necessary condition for the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeal to reconsider the case. The zoning board had previously denied the solo &pizza; bid in late April, prompting the restaurant chain to re-apply with the proposed Milk Bar partnership. The hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals will occur on August 10.

Harvard Square Business Association Executive Director Denise A. Jillson said the “milk &pizza;” concept meets their requirements, which include early openings, late closings, a three-season patio, and a reasonably-priced menu.

The Harvard Square Advisory Committee, which had approved the previous plan, voted 5-3 to endorse their new proposal.

Others are more cautious about the decision.

Suzanne P. Blier, a Harvard professor who founded the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association, said the &pizza; decision “exemplifies a wholesale shift in Harvard Square’s culture and character from largely locally owned unique businesses to national chains.” She noted that of four new food businesses opening soon, only one is local.

“When greedy landlords raise leases to the point that only national fast food chains and banks can afford to do business here it is a problem for the community,” Blier wrote in an email. &pizza;, she predicted, “will likely force out popular local pizzerias.”

Though there are currently five pizzerias in the square, Jillson argued that “it should be less about what they serve, but how they serve it.”

“We’re thankful for the endorsements from the Harvard Square Advisory Board and Planning Board and look forward to sharing our new plans with the Board of Zoning Appeals,” &pizza; wrote in a statement.

Jillson said she appreciated the feedback from residents.

“Good for the community for speaking out for what they want and good for &pizza; for responding so affirmatively,” she said.

—Staff writer Sarah Wu can be reached at sarah.wu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarah_wu_.

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