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Smith Center On Track To Open Next Fall, Univ. Says

Smith Center
An artist's rendering of the living room of the renovated Smith Campus Center, set to open for the Fall of 2018.

Though Harvard withdrew an application to extend construction hours on the Smith Campus Center as the renovation project nears its second year, the building will still be completed on time, according to the University.

The University filed an application in November to lengthen construction hours. The Cambridge License Commission, however, postponed a vote on the matter in December while the University continued to discuss the impacts of extending construction hours with local businesses.

But Harvard has now decided not to pursue the application. Despite the lack of extra construction hours, the project will still open on time in the fall, according to University spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke.

“Harvard chose not to pursue a variance,” O’Rourke wrote in an email. “The project remains on schedule.”

The renovations to the Smith Campus Center have posed several challenges to neighboring businesses around the construction site. One restaurant, En Boca, filed a lawsuit alleging the University misrepresented the scope of its renovations. The restaurant has also blamed Harvard's construction for its closure in June 2017, eight months after opening.

Last October, Tanya Iatridis, senior director of University Planning, said she expects the Center to open in September 2018. When complete, the building will feature new restaurants, a renovated arcade, and a top floor bar. Harvard first began renovations for the campus center in April 2016 after receiving a donation of an undisclosed amount.

Many students said they were excited by the prospect of shared space the renovated campus center will provide.

“There’s really right now no space for students to congregate outside of the houses,” Brandon N. Wachs ’18 said. “Having somewhere that’s central to meet that’s not a library, that’s not a restaurant, but that’s by Harvard would be really nice.”

Isabel R. Steinhaus ’18 said she feels jealous of the students who will be around when the center opens, given construction will not end before the Class of 2018 graduates. “I’m a senior, so I’m actually a little bummed because I thought it was initially going to open in the spring of 2018,” she said.

“I’m really excited about the food, I’m jealous that everyone else is going to get the chance to have some,” Steinhaus added.

The Smith Center is expected to house roughly eight food vendors, but Wachs said he has reservations about the potential affordability of these establishments.

“I think price point is really important, especially when you look at the Square and what’s left and potentially what could be coming in,” Wachs said. “The Square, to a large degree, does price people out depending on their socioeconomic status, which you don’t want at a school.”

“I think for the restaurants they put in there it would be crucial that they take BoardPlus or Crimson Cash,” he added.

The opening of the campus center has already had some effect on local residents. Due to the constant disruptive noise caused by the early morning construction, College administrators purchased white noise machines and sets of noise-cancelling headphones for freshmen living in Apley Court.

—Staff writer Yasmin Luthra can be reached at yasmin.luthra@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @YasminLuthra.

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