Cambridge Day reports the Harvest Coop and the Clear Conscience Cafe lose their Mass. Ave. leases at the end of August. The Coop is moving across the street to the old Jax - half the size of the current coop - but the cafe may be gone for good.
Mine is getting hiked by close to 20%.
higher demand than supply + quantitative easing + double digit inflation + property tax increase + (sometimes greedy landlord) = ZOMG RENT INCREASE!11
I'll disagree with the "double-digit inflation" as a reason. (Inflation is actually quite low, conspiracy theories aside), but will agree 100% with "higher demand than supply."
Of course, the NIMBYs in Cambridge make it almost impossible to build anything anywhere, so I don't see the supply issue getting better any time soon.
The people who will bemoan the loss of the co-op's convenient loading areas for their Prius will probably be the same people who don't want anything built anywhere near anything who are responsible for the lack of street-level retail and reasonably priced middle class housing in the area.
Yup. They just complain about "traffic," "parking," and "shadows."
be the same people who don't want anything built anywhere near anything who are responsible for the lack of street-level retail and reasonably priced middle class housing in the area.
If you drive a prius and shop for groceries in the co-op then there's next to nothing retail-wise in Central Square that you want to stay the same.
That's the issue. It's completely fine to lament and complain about high rents as long as you're in favor of increased developments, bigger buildings, and more residential. But you can't complain about high rents when there isn't enough supply in the commercial or residential spaces and you're against new developments, or high-rise buildings, or whatnot.
I walk through there twice daily, and the Harvest Coop is my grocery go-to. The weekly Farmer's Market is great. I can even tolerate the loony Eastern Service (Non)Workers and the Palestinian-are-always-right loonies.
This has a bad feel to it. The cafe is going away. The CSA's and Farmer's Markets are likely losing their space. And the Coop itself is being reduced by half. Somehow, I don't think that those of us who live around there are coming out on the positive side of this.
Let's take that one by one. The lot that Harvest leases is on the western side of the building; the CSA and Farmer's Markets are on the eastern side, in a municipal parking lot. Unless the City of Cambridge decides not to allow the use of the municipal lot, they should be able to continue unhindered.
I can't think of any particular reason why Harvest should be protected from the same competitive forces facing other neighborhood stores. Its inventory is hit-or-miss, and not always fresh; even for members, the prices are nothing exceptional. It's a nice neighborhood amenity, and I hope it thrives in its new space. But if it is, in fact, replaced by another grocery store, that strikes me as the best of all possible worlds. Harvest can refocus on the areas in which it possesses a distinct competitive advantage - things like bulk grains, organic foodstuffs, and other product lines not stocked by mainstream retailers. And a larger grocer can offer a wider array of cheaper staples for the neighborhood. Really, what's not to love about that?
Oh, and it's entirely unclear why it's leaving its current space. Harvest says the rent is going to be too high. The landlord said the rent isn't going up, but that the space currently occupied by Jax is half the size and so charges half the rent, which was irresistible to Harvest - in other words, that Harvest wasn't generating sufficient business to justify its overhead. He's extended their lease until August, which favors his account; he's also offering some cash incentives for the move, which favor's Harvest's story. I have no idea how to parse those competing claims.
I wish they were knocking the building down and putting up a forty-story tower. Absent that, this is a pretty good outcome. And while I'll be sorry to see Clear Conscience leave, is there actually a shortage of cafes in Central?
Where did the landlord say the rent isn't going up? The Cambridge Day articles don't say that.
I never understood why a landlord would raise the rent enough to force out a long-term stable tenant. There are plenty of examples of businesses around here that closed because of rent increases, only to have the new tenant go out of business quickly. Sometimes the space never rents at all, and sits vacant for years.
In the Cambridge Chronicle account:
Naggar said he didn’t hike the rent, but that Harvest chose to leave for the smaller space as a way to save money.
The store will be moving to a 7,000-square-foot space – about half of where it operates now.
“Obviously they’re going to do much better – the rent is in half. The rent wasn’t jacked up rent at all. They’re probably going to be doing much better financially by paying half of rent they were paying. It was a business decision,” Naggar said.
The Cambridge Day wrote: "The moves are a result of rising rents that made a new lease impossible, he said."
The cafe guy says, pointedly, that he was frozen out of the discussions, and then tosses of his comment about rising rents. I'm not sure how to take it, but it's quite possible to read it as an explanation of why he can't find another space anywhere else in the neighborhood. It can't be about Naggar, because Clear Conscience was Harvest's tenant, and didn't rent anything directly from Naggar.
Cambridge Day has gone back and updated its story to reflect the information in the Chronicle. My best guess is that Harvest decided to move in order to economize, and that Naggar encouraged them to do so, in order to sign up a somewhat more upscale and lucrative tenant. The Clear Conscience guy got caught in the middle - Harvest wasn't putting his space to particularly productive use, and so the rent they took in from him was a bonus and helped them shoulder the lease; on its own, it appears, it's not a viable business for the neighborhood.
The bottom line in all of this, of course, is that the current zoning caps in Central Square are absolutely insane, and are applying increasing pressure to the Square's mix of small and local businesses. Just last week, a modest proposal for a 145-ft tall, slender tower along Mass Ave provoked howls of self-righteous outrage from people insisting that no structure rise above eighty feet. Well, guess what? This is the inevitable result. The area is growing. The local economy is booming. Tech and biotech dollars are spilling over from Kendall. And unless Cambridge starts building up, providing an outlet for the mounting pressure, it will continue to squeeze out small businesses.
When I saw the proposal for a single, slender tower as part of a much broader development, I wanted to howl, too. It's a missed opportunity. We should be building to the maximum economic height along the Mass Ave corridor, where transportation infrastructure and services are densely concentrated and capable of supporting much more intensive uses. Every new development that scales back its ambitions in order to placate the self-annointed defenders of scale simply increases the pressure on every business and every housing unit in the area. That's it? I thought. Only a single, fourteen story tower? On a parcel so perfectly positioned? What a tragic wasted opportunity. And the really bitter part is that, even there, the ambition will get scaled back. Pity.
How would a tower provide more space for ground-level retail?
Usually that type of development has *less* retail than what it replaces. And the retail space it does offer is expensive, and not suited to small or independent businesses.
It's not only building height. They have minimum parking requirements too. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in a city that supposedly prides itself on walking, bicycling and public transit.
They are complaining about a 145 foot structure? Let's see what they say when someone proposes a few more 80 foot buildings in Central, which they claim is acceptable. That could go quite a long way. And no setback requirements either!
As a Harvest member, I received a vaguely-worded letter last week that didn't really specify why they were moving the Cambridge location. If it's true that the rent isn't going up, as someone stated above, then I imagine the reason is that they're cutting back in order to be able to finance the new stores they're planning for Forest Hills and the Fenway - instead of Cambridge being the flagship store and JP being the smaller outpost, there will be 3-4 smaller stores. The landlord providing financial support to move makes me think that he/she wants Harvest out of that space, though.
I've heard the Harvest spot will be filled with a Super 88.
I liked Harvest better before Clear Conscience- when Harvest customers were allowed to use the restroom.
While I love the clear Conscience concept- and the always available seating!- I won't be sad to see them go. The staff are rude, and the products aren't anything special.
But Super 88 sold to Hong Kong Supermarkets of NYC around 2009. So, if a "Super 88" is going in there, it'll be called Hong Kong Supermarket, not Super 88.
shallow and pedantic!
that while most of the country would think of me as a crazed bleeding heart lefty moonbat, the name Clear Conscience Cafe always struck me as maddeningly smug.
Yeah, me too. I think there's a lot of problems with politicizing what you eat or declaring this foodstuff or that foodstuff "correct". I deliberately avoided the place for precisely that reason.
Ha, I'm so glad someone else said this before I did. While I shop at Harvest when I'm in the area, the cafe is awful! They have some of the smarmiest employees. There are plenty of far better cafes in the area (e.g.: 1369 down the street!). I'm not sad at all about the Clear Conscience going.
They win the most smarmy employee award (and they're all incredibly slow to boot).