More than four years after initiating a proposal to construct a small park in the roadway abutting the Inn at Harvard, groundbreaking is set to begin.
The Quincy Square Design Development Committee told the Cambridge City Council last week that it supports a proposal to establish a public park and memorial in the triangular area formed by the intersection of Mass Ave and Harvard Street.
But the final status of the project is still in doubt. Although the City Council has given the plan its preliminary approval for the installation of curb cuts, depresions allowing for sidewalk access, it refused to authorize substantive work on the site, known as Quincy Square.
"There are still questions and doubts," said City Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio. "I've attended the meetings, and everyone is not in agreement about the park's final design."
While opposition to the Cambridge Savings Bank's proposal to demolish several buildings in the Square has come from organized groups, most complaints about the Quincy Square Memorial have come from local residents.
Galluccio said he has been contacted by those living in apartments along Mass. Ave who fear that patrons from the Hong Kong restaurant and the Bow and Arrow Pub will congregate in the park after the taverns close.
While the park would beautify the Quincy Square area, Galluccio said, he wanted to make sure that it would not lead to increased vagrant activity.
"People who live closest to the area are apprehensive it will turn into a hangout for loud activity," said John R. Pitkin, committee co-chair. "They don't want that outside their bedrooms."
Phoebe M. Bruck, co-chair of the design committee, dismissed the fears of residents as misguided complaints from "people who don't like change."
"We held numerous hearings," Bruck said. "There was little testimony, and it was over whelmingly favorable."
Crime, Safety and Nature
In response to the complaints, Bruck said, the advisory board recommended that the park contain only several trees and ground cover. There would be no seating within the site, she said.
Baskin-Robbins owner Stephen Latzanakis, however, said that the city would be able to combat any problems with an increased police presence in the area.
"We have two police departments," he said of the Cambridge and Harvard forces. "If they enforce the laws, there should be no side effects."
Galluccio also expressed concern that the site would lead to increased congestion along Mass. Ave because it proposed shrinking traffic lanes to accommodate a bicycle path.
He took issue with a report by the engineering firm Rizzo and Associates, who told the city council that the lane shrinkage would provide pedestrians and drivers with an improved view of one another, thereby increasing safety. "I'm worried there will be either an impact on traffic flow or on pedestrian safety," Galluccio said.
Pitkin said that while his committee had similar fears about traffic congestion, it concentrated mainly on constructing a public area which would beautify the intersection, which he called the "gateway between MIT and Harvard."
Meanwhile, some Harvard students have expressed support for the project because of their personal stake in improving the intersection.
I love nature," said Andrew E. Neiland '97. "And I don't like the long, dangerous walk between Mather and the Yard."
"I hope this is finished before I'm set to graduate," he said.