The Harvard Square Defense Fund needs more money to protect Harvard Square from big business, according to speakers at the Fund's annual meeting yesterday.
The six-member panel, entitled "Visions for Harvard Square," explained the need for more funds by detailing changes in the Square over the part decade.
"Our aim is to preserve whatever it is that is special or unique about Harvard Square," said Defense Fund President Pebble Gifford, who introduced the discussion.
"We don't want the Square to turn into one large outdoor mall," said panelist Kristin S. Demong, president of Harvard Real Estate.
The mission of the Fund, since its establishment in 1979, has been to preserve the "mom-and-pop" feel of the Square and prevent big business takeovers, said panelist Webb Nichols, a local architect.
If the Square becomes less favorable to small business, then those businesses will go bankrupt or relocate, said Nichols and other panelists.
"The unique stores are marching down Mass. Ave. and are going to end up in Porter Square," he said.
Another concern is that chain stores and businesses can offer more competitive prices for property, making it impossible for the independent and family-run businesses to survive, the panelists said.
"The Square is like a collage or patchwork quilt built in pieces, but each piece is self sufficient and we have to make each piece more successful into itself," Nichols said.
But most panelists agreed that some basic problems--sixth as the homeless, trash, and the condition of "the pit"--need to be addressed. Panelist Richard Getz, for example, mentioned a coupon program to assist penhandlers.
One panelists also argued that rent control is essential to the success of small business because it helps to reduce the crime rate.
"Rent Control means a lower population turnover, a lower population turnover means a lower crime rate," said John Pitkin, chair of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association. "Businesses have chosen Harvard Square because it is safe."
Overall, response to the panel seemed quite positive.
"It was absolutely dynamite," said audience member Martha S. Lawrence, 70, who has lived in the Square for more than half a century. Lawrence said that she liked "the panel approach of presenting such diverse views."
Lucy K. Tiltmann, 62, who said she has frequented the Square for the last 40 years, agreed.
"The diversity here gives a cross section of the interests in the square," she said. "It was a good verbal expression of the physical atmosphere of the Square."
In an interview at the end of the discussion, John DiGiovanni, president of Trinity Property Management in Cambridge, summed up the views the Fund espouses. "It is vibrant and such a popular place because for so many years the Square defined itself," he said
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