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After over a year of vacant storefronts, community debate, and eager anticipation, &pizza and Milk Bar are finally expected to open sometime this fall in their corner spot at 8 Brattle St., according to Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association.
&pizza, a D.C.-based customizable pizza restaurant, and Milk Bar, a bakery and dessert store gained initial approval from the Cambridge Planning Board in July 2017, and zoning approval from the Cambridge Zoning Board in September. A year later, the storefront is still a boarded up construction site.
Spokespersons for &pizza and Milk Bar both declined to provide an expected opening date.
Construction, however, began in June of this year, when the project was granted a construction permit and a permit to obstruct the sidewalk. The sidewalk obstruction permit will expire this November.
The construction has proceeded smoothly, with minimal interruption to Square life, according to Jillson.
“It has been seamless,” Jillson said. “The sidewalk has not been obstructed in any way and they’ve maintained it very nicely with that sort of wooden structure. The construction company has been — I can’t say enough about them — really phenomenal.”
While the construction may now be moving along, the project has been complicated from the start.
The initial proposal for the pizza restaurant caused some residents to worry that a modern storefront would mar the historic character of the centrally-located Harvard Square building, formerly home to longtime newsstand Crimson Corner. Other Cantabrigians cited concerns about yet another fast-food chain — and specifically another pizza restaurant — opening in the Square.
Other residents — a group called “OurHarvardSQ” — were upset about the company itself, calling into question their supposed practices of encouraging employees to get logo-based ampersand tattoos and referring to them as “tribe members.”
&pizza’s first bid for zoning approval in May 2017 was denied by the city, which cited the high number of other pizza restaurants within close proximity to the proposed store.
Though some at the time worried the project was doomed by the rejection, &pizza bounced back.
The company submitted a new proposal, this time proposing a shop that co-housed New York-based dessert restaurant Milk Bar. At the time, Karen D. Simao, an attorney for &pizza, wrote to the planning board that the new plan both incorporated community feedback and would increase the likelihood that eaters would choose to dine in at the restaurant, given its wider array of options.
This time, the planning board gave them the nod, recognizing the new proposal as being different enough from the last one.
In late February 2018, the Cambridge licensing commission approved a common victualer license for the restaurant. The application included an outdoor patio seating for 16 and indoor seating space for 42 with operating hours of 7 a.m. until 2 a.m.
—Staff writer Henry W. Burnes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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