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Editorials

Envisioning Community in Harvard Square

Out of Town News

In the latest reshuffling of Harvard Square, the famed Out of Town News stand has shuttered, leaving the famed kiosk it occupied in the middle of Harvard Square. The 64-year-old newsstand’s departure represents an unfortunate but very real trend of declining sales of print journalism in a digital age, as well as a wider issue of longevity and new construction within the Square; its fate was therefore often uncertain for many years past.

We’ve spoken repeatedly, alongside many other voices, about what the fate of Harvard Square will be, and what it will look like as it continues to pass into future years and serve future generations of Cantabrigians and Harvard affiliates, especially as changing tastes determine what lives or dies in the few little blocks surrounding the neighborhood. We’ve urged students to support the kind of Harvard Square they want to live in, encouraged the Cambridge City Council to spark greater debates about affordability within the city, and hoped that landlords and business owners can work to foster meaningful ties to the area.

But something often lingering in the background, and not often explicitly touched upon, is the difficulty of building and fostering community in Harvard Square. Can a real sense of belonging truly be found in an area so often defined by the transience of many of its visitors, students and tourists alike?

One answer to that question has been proposed by CultureHouse, a community-based non-profit organization which hosts social events and artistic performances, which is stepping into the void Out of Town News has left in the Harvard Square Kiosk until April. They hope to transform the kiosk’s 500 square feet into a space “to work, to play, and to interact to get to know your neighbors,” per the organization’s founder. We are interested to see what CultureHouse can accomplish with the place in its short stint within Harvard Square, but have also reflected on similar places within the Square with similar goals, if not exactly striving for the same sort of environment.

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We feel that the Smith Campus Center, for instance, has provided a valuable communal space for Harvard affiliates in the year after its major renovation. It has been a positive contribution for all those visiting the are,, and has done an exemplary job serving as Harvard’s “front door.” We’re pleased to have it around, and heartened by the ways in which it has brought many of us together. We would also recognize and encourage others to consider the Democracy Center on Mt. Auburn Street, a self-described “vibrant” and “alternative” activist community space, which we feel is underutilized and has enormous potential for fostering an important and unique space for those searching for one.

As CultureHouse, then, prepares to move into Harvard Square, we hope that its organizers use the unique kiosk environment to add value to the lives of those who interact with it. We also hope that community members were involved with, or will be involved with, how CultureHouse moves into and uses the space, and hope that similar future projects also involve enormous community input. And moving forward, we’d like to see more discussion surrounding how current spaces in Harvard Square can be bastions of community, beyond their sole economic potential or contribution.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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