Out of Town News Plaza Slated for Elevator Renovation, Kiosk Restoration
The plaza at the heart of Harvard Square will soon be under construction to both renovate the elevator outside the Harvard Square T station and restore the historic Out of Town News kiosk.
Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said the elevator construction project is intended to make the Square and T station more accessible for people with disabilities. Additionally, In 2006, the MBTA settled a lawsuit in which it promised to update the elevator.
Cambridge Vice Mayor Jan Devereux said she was satisfied with the MBTA’s work on the elevator so far.
“The MBTA elevator is very welcome. The elevator had lots of different problems and getting the MBTA to take on a capital expense is always a heavy lift, and it’s appreciated,” Devereux said. “It, of course, does somewhat disrupt the foot traffic around the entrance to the headhouse, but I think they’ve done a pretty good job of containing it.”
Devereux said the MBTA will also be renovating the tunnels of the station's underground bus terminal starting in the summer of 2019.
Concurrently to the MBTA updates to the plaza, the Cambridge City Council is in the process of planning the restoration of the Out of Town News kiosk, a long-time Square staple.
“In 2011, the Harvard Square Business Association developed with principle, of course, an idea for the restoration of the kiosk,” Jillson said. “The basis of that is if you actually go over there and look at it — I mean really look at it — you will see that this little building that we all love and revere so much is basically falling apart.”
Devereux said a working group is currently developing plans to repurpose the current building, which has served as a news stand since 1984, but dates back to 1928, when it was the entrance to the subway.
“It will no longer be a commercial newsstand as it is now,” Devereux said. “The city owns the building and has been leasing it all of this time to the Out of Town’s operator, and it was decided that it should serve a more public purpose.”
Despite this, the city plans to maintain the kiosk’s recognizable appearance.
“You can’t change a brick. Nobody would want to,” Jillson said.
Devereux added that Cambridge will also be modifying other parts of the plaza. In particular, the current information kiosk will be removed. These changes are intended to make the plaza a more open place for visitors, Devereux said.
Suzanne P. Blier, a Fine Arts and African and African American Studies professor and director of the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association, wrote in an email that the MBTA should also redesign the entrance to the Harvard T station while construction is underway in the plaza on these other projects.
“Since the redesign of the kiosk plaza is about to get underway, now would be an ideal time to replace the MBTA entry as well,” she wrote.
Devereux said she too wants to see both the T station headhouse and the escalators into the T station restored in the future.
“It’s like fixing your house and doing everything but repainting the front door and front porch,” Devereux said. “It’s like ‘Yeah, but we have beautiful bathrooms upstairs and look at our kitchen, it’s really sexy, and out in the backyard, we planted a bunch of trees. Well how come you didn’t fix your front porch [if] it’s got a hole in the steps and the door doesn’t work?’”
—Staff writer Paul D. Tamburro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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