Nostalgic for the Past, Cambridge Business Owners Call For Harvard Square Reform at Town Meeting

More than 50 people met in Cambridge last night to discuss the future of Harvard Square, expressing nostalgia for the Square of the 1960s and a desire for reinvigoration of unique local businesses.

During the two-hour meeting, held in Christ Church, local business owners analyzed the retail store makeup and covered issues ranging from rents to parking to Harvard Square’s public image.

Arranged by City Councillor Brian Murphy, the meeting was intended to compile a list of the needs and desires of business owners.

Businesses owners called for free parking, lower rents, more greenery, the removal of the virtual teller near the CVS pharmacy, and a lingerie store.

During the meeting, owners split up into small groups and wrote their brainstormed ideas onto large notepads.

While many attendees disagreed about economic problems such as rents and parking prices, other topics garnered much support.

Although mentions of Harvard University were absent from much of the discussion, there was a palpable sense of nostalgia for the past—the foot traffic of the 1980s and a reinvigoration of independent businesses.

Those in attendance offered concrete suggestions about stores that are missing from the Harvard Square mix. Owners expressed wishes for a centrally located grocery store, an Apple computer store, more liquor licenses, and fewer banks.

They also expressed a desire to provide what the business owners termed “anchor” attractions and stores.

The business owners said they felt that popularity had declined, that shopping had decreased, and that business was stagnant.

In order to remedy this situation, business owners proposed hiring a public relations and media firm to help craft a new image for Harvard Square. The communication firm would craft an image of “The New Harvard Square,” and launch a “media blitz,” to increase consumerism in the area.

Business owners said they want more foot traffic, more night life, and more suburbanites to come back to the Square.

They attributed the Square’s current state to a poor business conditions: a negative media image, spreading messages that the old Harvard Square “is all gone,” as well as chains and banks pushing out independent and locally run businesses.