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Caution: Square Contents Are Hot

By Matthew W. Granade and Andrew K. Mandel, Crimson Staff Writerss

Both the owner of the Central Square McDonald's and the manager of the Porter Square franchise, where Harvard students must trek for their break today, expressed interest in starting a Harvard location.

Officials from the corporation, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that McDonald's would love to start a franchise in the Square, and has examined the possibility in the past.

But loving the idea is not enough, because the executives of McDonald's Corp. have concerns beyond sheer demand.

What's the difficulty? It's the same problem faced by Burger King, Wendy's and Taco Bell, and is the reason all four have steered clear of JFK Street: community concerns.

Ronald L. Fleming, head of Cambridge's Townscape Institute, says the mix of stores in Harvard Square "stimulates curiosity and nurtures intricacy," features that a "homogenized unit" like McDonald's would threaten.

He also suggests that students currently advocating the franchise should learn to respect the environment that they occupy for only four years.

But some students have argued that they are a lasting part of the community, if not individually, than as a group.

"Students need something that's fast, something that's cheap," Justin D. Lerer '99 said in a public meeting this spring.

"Students will be here forever," Lerer, who is a Crimson editor, added.

But for now, fast food franchises, including McDonald's headquarters, have bypassed the Square--and its preservationists.

For this article, The Crimson called seven McDonald's executives, sent four letters and two faxes in an attempt to elicit comment about the potential for a McDonald's in Harvard Square.

Three weeks later, a single letter arrived, in which the company discussed the importance of being a "good neighbor," and hinted at community reluctance.

"We know there is no McDonald's in your backyard, but there are McDonald's restaurants nearby in Porter Square and Central Square, and we would love to have you as our guests," the letter finished.

For now, students will have to live with that.

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