What's Happening to my Neighborhood?

bevmire's picture

Harvard Square is becoming a visitors' shopping paradise, but what about we who live here?

My  neighborhood is changing.  I’d say it was dying but I’d run the risk of sounding like the old lady in Harvard Square who spends all her time longing for the old days.  I’ll admit to the first but I’m nowhere near the second.  What I’m longing for is balance; a place where tourists and students will feel comfortable and townies can walk a few blocks to find the everyday conveniences we deserve

It’s not just the encroachment of chain stores and high-end cafes that are making us one big mall (Don’t get me started on Curious George).  It spreads to the redevelopment of old homes and the building of houses large enough to hold a three-generation family.  Every time I walk down Brattle Street I say a silent prayer for the Carey Sisters, whose landmark home boasted the most beautiful garden ever.  It was well tended and exploding with seasonal flowers and plants. It took your breath away.  Alas the new owner has mercilessly plowed it under and now it’s dirt covered with building materials. 

In a way, the Miss Careys’ home is a metaphor for the careless way developers and property owners are treating the entire square.

Rather than whine, however, I’m going to be positive and use this space to make suggestions to the local businesspeople who are allowing the aforementioned developers and property owners plow under the things that make Harvard Square Harvard Square.

Here they are:

A food store.  I absolutely love the Broadway Market and Fresh Pond Market but why oh why can’t I walk around the corner and get a chicken or pork chop in the square?  A bunch of broccoli, an orange that hasn’t been sitting in a basket for about a month?  Flour, sugar, and butter.  A bottle of wine whose label I recognize?  The staples.  All in one place.

A clothing store for women who feel the senior years encroaching.  What we’ve got now is fashion for the aspiring size zero set or fashion for the multiple-zeros-in-their-wallet set.  How about a store that caters to working-class women with real bodies.  We spend money too.  And since we live in Harvard Square, you can be pretty sure we pay our bills.

A pizzeria.  I’m talking a genuine North End-style pizzeria where you know the pizza hasn’t been sitting on a shelf gathering dust before being reheated to lukewarm in the oven. Is it too much to ask for something like Armando’s on Huron, where the proprietors know everyone by name—watched some of their diners grow up?  I’d even go with a local chain as long as it’s Pizzeria Regina.

A Jewish deli.  Not a Jewish-style deli, a Jewish deli.  Fresh bagels, brisket sandwiches, knishes, chicken with matzo ball soup.  The winter is long and harsh and we need fortifying food without having to risk our lives going to S&S in Inman or over the BU Bridge to Brookline.

A movie theatre.  Come on!  (stamps her feet!) Do I even have to make a case?

A Formaggio-style gourmet food store.  I can dream, can't I?

So there you have it.  Really, I could have gone on, but I wanted to throw a few things out there hoping at least one would stick.  That the faceless people who are filling the square with faceless stores would take pity on a little old lady who wants to spend money on the streets where she lives.