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Groups Rally To Preserve Restaurants

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Cambridge residents and business owners spoke passionately of preserving the character of the Square at a meeting of the Cambridge Historical Commission last night where the redevelopment of several Square buildings, including the Tasty, was discussed.

Last night's meeting was one of a series in which the commission will decide whether to recommend that the City Council designate the site a landmark.

Cambridge Savings Bank is considering plans to significantly remodel four buildings in the Square, including the one that for more than a century has contained the Tasty and the Wursthaus.

W. Easley Hammer, principal of the architectural firm working with the bank, illustrated his proposals with an elaborate styrofoam model of the area.

He emphasized that the plans are still in the discussion phase and said repeatedly that the bank wants to do everything possible to maintain the historical significance of the site.

The corner is actually composed of parts of four separate buildings united behind one facade--buildings that date back hundreds of years.

While in some cases only dismembered frames remain of the original structures, the commission as well as Hamner said they wanted to preserve the antiques.

Hamner also said the bank wanted to try to preserve the appearance of the Square. He suggested that the facade might be preserved while the inside of the site was modernized and renovated.

"Urbanistically, this facade is one of the most important in the entire city," Hamner said.

The members of the commission expressed a concern, later echoed by community members, that the site continue to house small businesses rather than large chain stores--like the Gap, Express and HMV--that have been appearing in increasing numbers in the Square.

"The quality of the uses in the building is as important as the architecture," said Anthony C. Platt, a member of the commission.

Hamner said the bank was trying to keep small businesses the focus of the site.

"We've never looked at a megastore for this area," he said.

However, members of the commission were quick to emphasize that their jurisdiction does not cover the use of the space in question.

Nevertheless, the future uses of the site was a major issue in the meeting.

James M. Williamson, a longtime patron of the Tasty, expressed concern about the fate of the quirky diner.

"We're talking about places and spaces, not just facades," Williamson said.

Hamner reiterated that "small-scale retail has been part of this plan from day one."

The Tasty, which Hamner said is about 10 by 15 feet with an eight-and-a-half-foot ceiling, is certainly "small-scale retail."

"We'd love to have the Tasty as part of the development," Hamner said.

He added, however, that in devel- opments, "there's a transition period in which something isn't there in order to put it back."

More than 10 community members and activists who had crowded into the small conference room on the third floor of the Cambridge City Hall Annex also urged the importance of maintaining the character of the Square.

Julia Baron, a high school student who co-founded the Harvard Square Liberation Front to protest the bank's development plans, read from a prepared statement.

"Harvard Square is a vital part of the city, because of its character, not just its revenue-per-square-foot, and must be protected against this kind of development," Baron said. "And if Harvard Square continues to be mallized, we will not only have lost a unique area, but we will have built a wasteland."

Baron said later that the Square is one of the reasons she enjoys living in Cambridge.

"Not only do I have to travel through it daily, I want to," Baron said.

Peter Haddad, the owner of the Tasty, also spoke at the meeting.

"I think of myself more as the custodian than the owner because it's a way of life," said Haddad.

"We wanna keep this corner. You have a jewel here. People all over the world are watching this project," Haddad said.

After the meeting, Platt said the bank had seemed much more willing to listen and work with preservationists at this session.

"I think they're getting the message finally," he said.

Meanwhile, residents and activists continued to discuss the future of the site.

Steve Wayne, who has lived near the site for at least 10 years, said, "I'm really against this being built."

"I'm a chef. The Tasty's not great food. But it's an institution," said Wayne.

Haddad said he was hoping the Tasty would stay open, but he had no time frame from the bank as to when or if they would shut it down.

"They are under no legal obligation to keep the place open," said Haddad. "They could shut it down tonight.

More than 10 community members and activists who had crowded into the small conference room on the third floor of the Cambridge City Hall Annex also urged the importance of maintaining the character of the Square.

Julia Baron, a high school student who co-founded the Harvard Square Liberation Front to protest the bank's development plans, read from a prepared statement.

"Harvard Square is a vital part of the city, because of its character, not just its revenue-per-square-foot, and must be protected against this kind of development," Baron said. "And if Harvard Square continues to be mallized, we will not only have lost a unique area, but we will have built a wasteland."

Baron said later that the Square is one of the reasons she enjoys living in Cambridge.

"Not only do I have to travel through it daily, I want to," Baron said.

Peter Haddad, the owner of the Tasty, also spoke at the meeting.

"I think of myself more as the custodian than the owner because it's a way of life," said Haddad.

"We wanna keep this corner. You have a jewel here. People all over the world are watching this project," Haddad said.

After the meeting, Platt said the bank had seemed much more willing to listen and work with preservationists at this session.

"I think they're getting the message finally," he said.

Meanwhile, residents and activists continued to discuss the future of the site.

Steve Wayne, who has lived near the site for at least 10 years, said, "I'm really against this being built."

"I'm a chef. The Tasty's not great food. But it's an institution," said Wayne.

Haddad said he was hoping the Tasty would stay open, but he had no time frame from the bank as to when or if they would shut it down.

"They are under no legal obligation to keep the place open," said Haddad. "They could shut it down tonight.

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