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Nantucket Denied Variance

By Georgia N. Alexakis

Tom and Tom of Nantucket Nectars won't be setting up shop in Harvard Square anytime soon. The Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) last night refused to grant the company a zoning variance needed to open their proposed juice bar.

Some neighbors and Harvard students favored the flow of fruity beverages in the Square, but members of the Harvard Square Defense Fund and the University opposed the project, which failed to gain a majority before the board.

Tom Scott and Tom First, founders of the popular juice company, had signed a 15-year lease with the Fly Club six weeks ago hoping to make the former D.U. building, located at 45 Dunster St. opposite the Harvard Office of Career Services, the site of their national corporate headquarters as well as of a juice bar.

Scott and First said they were disappointed about the denied variance.

"We knew it would be an uphill battle, but we didn't expect such opposition," First said.

Many neighbors said they supported the venture.

"I welcome the juice guys and their simple juice bar to our community," said Dennis Black, manager of J. Press, a retail clothier that shares the property.

Scott agreed, saying that he didn't understand the arguments against the juice bar. Scott said he believed it would be "a beneficial contribution to the community."

"We want a place where we can interact with our customers and make it more than just a corporate headquarters," he said.

The building needed the variance because the former D.U. building is located in a residential zone.

"It's unfortunate," said Paul Conti, who heads the juice-bar project for Nantucket Nectars. "The opposition was just really strong."

Members of the board expressed concern that the juice bar would generate excessive traffic and trash in the area.

"It does concern me a lot to see any retail use on Mt. Auburn Street," said Michael Wiggins, vice-chair of the board. "I find myself strongly opposed."

Scott Levitan, director of university and commercial properties at Harvard Planning and Real Estate, spoke on behalf of the University, which opposed the variance on the grounds that excessive noise would result.

Noise would disturb Elizabeth S. Nathans, dean of first-years, who lives next to the site, according to Levitan.

"I know much has been said tonight about the freshman dean, but whoever lives in that house is entitled to some peace and quiet," he said.

But supporters of Nantucket Nectars said the juice bar would be a welcome change at the currently unoccupied site.

"These people are intending to make the best possible use of this property," Black said. "Previously, the building and its D.U. club presented lascivious student behavior. The last freshman dean told stories of furniture flying out of the second-floor windows."

"[Nantucket Nectars] would have been more than welcome as my tenants," said Michael Zuromskis '60, D.U. graduate board treasurer and the building's landlord.

Much of the board's debate centered around the proposed "green park space" that Scott and First planned to build outside the juice bar.

At the meeting, members of the Defense Fund said that an outdoor patio and eating place would give the site too much of a commercial feel.

"I would have no problem granting this variance in another location," said a board member who went on to vote against the appeal. "This violates the Dunster Street atmosphere, and it would prompt activities not appropriate for the rest of the environment."

Nantucket Nectars attorney Vincent J. Panico said his clients were willing to make any concessions the board felt were necessary. Scott and First had already agreed to keep the proposed green space closed after dark and during off-season.

"We will do whatever your board and the Cambridge Historical Commission suggest, and we will adhere to it," said Panico.

Board members also argued that "students see this area as one that is residential," using a letter expressing opposition to the variance from the Signet Society as evidence of student sentiment.

The Signet Society's building is located across the street from 45 Dunster St.

But Harvard students present at the meeting said they felt differently.

"There's no other place in the Square that is offering what they are offering," said Jennifer K. Westhagen '99.

"[The location] is already very close to the street," Westhagen said. "I'm sure there are people there anyway who are walking in and out all the time. Pinocchio's [Pizza] is right down the street, and there used to be a final club there. I don't think a juice bar would be any noisier."

Zuromskis said "the Harvard-driven opposition" came as a result of the University's desire to own the property.

The D.U. corporation gave Harvard the chance to buy the property when First and Scott made the initial offer to buy the building, according to Zuromskis.

He said Harvard refused.

"Harvard is sore because they thought they would automatically get the property [when the D.U. shut down]," Zuromskis said. "As far as I can see, they just want to add it to their inventory. They own every other building."

By denying the variance, the five-member board eliminated the company's chances of opening the juice bar for at least another two years--the allocated waiting time before a party can re-appeal

Members of the board expressed concern that the juice bar would generate excessive traffic and trash in the area.

"It does concern me a lot to see any retail use on Mt. Auburn Street," said Michael Wiggins, vice-chair of the board. "I find myself strongly opposed."

Scott Levitan, director of university and commercial properties at Harvard Planning and Real Estate, spoke on behalf of the University, which opposed the variance on the grounds that excessive noise would result.

Noise would disturb Elizabeth S. Nathans, dean of first-years, who lives next to the site, according to Levitan.

"I know much has been said tonight about the freshman dean, but whoever lives in that house is entitled to some peace and quiet," he said.

But supporters of Nantucket Nectars said the juice bar would be a welcome change at the currently unoccupied site.

"These people are intending to make the best possible use of this property," Black said. "Previously, the building and its D.U. club presented lascivious student behavior. The last freshman dean told stories of furniture flying out of the second-floor windows."

"[Nantucket Nectars] would have been more than welcome as my tenants," said Michael Zuromskis '60, D.U. graduate board treasurer and the building's landlord.

Much of the board's debate centered around the proposed "green park space" that Scott and First planned to build outside the juice bar.

At the meeting, members of the Defense Fund said that an outdoor patio and eating place would give the site too much of a commercial feel.

"I would have no problem granting this variance in another location," said a board member who went on to vote against the appeal. "This violates the Dunster Street atmosphere, and it would prompt activities not appropriate for the rest of the environment."

Nantucket Nectars attorney Vincent J. Panico said his clients were willing to make any concessions the board felt were necessary. Scott and First had already agreed to keep the proposed green space closed after dark and during off-season.

"We will do whatever your board and the Cambridge Historical Commission suggest, and we will adhere to it," said Panico.

Board members also argued that "students see this area as one that is residential," using a letter expressing opposition to the variance from the Signet Society as evidence of student sentiment.

The Signet Society's building is located across the street from 45 Dunster St.

But Harvard students present at the meeting said they felt differently.

"There's no other place in the Square that is offering what they are offering," said Jennifer K. Westhagen '99.

"[The location] is already very close to the street," Westhagen said. "I'm sure there are people there anyway who are walking in and out all the time. Pinocchio's [Pizza] is right down the street, and there used to be a final club there. I don't think a juice bar would be any noisier."

Zuromskis said "the Harvard-driven opposition" came as a result of the University's desire to own the property.

The D.U. corporation gave Harvard the chance to buy the property when First and Scott made the initial offer to buy the building, according to Zuromskis.

He said Harvard refused.

"Harvard is sore because they thought they would automatically get the property [when the D.U. shut down]," Zuromskis said. "As far as I can see, they just want to add it to their inventory. They own every other building."

By denying the variance, the five-member board eliminated the company's chances of opening the juice bar for at least another two years--the allocated waiting time before a party can re-appeal

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