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Au Bon Pain of Harvard Square will construct an additional greenhouse seating area to alleviate crowding and create an indoor version of the outdoor summer cafe.
The heated 88-seat enclosure will cost approximately $200,000 to build and will more than double the store's current seating capacity. The annex is expected to open in mid-March.
Project architects said they were careful to design a cafe that would maintain the public nature of the outdoor plaza.
"There was concern that it shouldn't get too privatized--so that you didn't feel like you had to go buy a donut or something to sit down in there," said architect Bill Lindemulder of Sert, Jackson and Associates. "We tried to do that by opening it up as much as possible."
The original plan was styled after the Green House Cafe in the Science Center but was abandoned for something more elaborate and appropriate to the existing croissanterie, Lindemulder said.
The final design features nine sliding glass doors that will roll away in the summer to open onto the plaza. In response to popular demand, several chess board tables will be placed inside the greenhouse, Au Bon Pain officials said.
Employees and patrons agreed on the need for the addition, saying that the final project was well worth the noise and temporary inconvenience the construction poses.
"I see this addition as a year-round improvement," said Walter Watts, Au Bon Pain manager. "As it is now we fill up during peak hours, during lunches and in the evenings and of course we lose a lot of business in the cold weather."
"Sometimes it's murder around here," said another employee. "At lunchtime there's so many people standing around eating I can hardly get by them to clean."
"It seems like a terrific idea to me," said a croissant-munching customer who was leaning against the wall. "Just look around, there's not a seat in the house."
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