Scout Cambridge reports the Cambridge Artists Cooperative is decamping after 31 years in Harvard Square and is now looking for help to move to either Central or Porter squares. There's just not enough foot traffic to justify the high Harvard Square rents anymore, a cooperative official says.
We've got two large empty spaces on Elm Street: a Family Dollar that closed more than two years ago, and a Thrive Exchange that just closed a few weeks ago (after opening a replacement store in Assembly Row). Plenty of foot traffic here.
Since it's been up and coming for a number of years.
The landlords would rather keep these spaces vacant, even for years, in hopes they can score a high paying national retailer. They get to deduct the losses in the meantime and play other tax tricks so it's no loss to them. That's why in a booming economy there are so many vacant spots in these high pedestrian zones.
Tax laws and rates need to change. There needs to be a higher tax rate for vacant storefront locations which provide a disincentive to keep these places vacant. There should also be a tax incentive if the owner of store is local and isn't just a licensee of a national brand.
If the landlords cared (they don't) they'd at least allow artists and local non-profits to rent these spaces on a month-to-month basis at below market rates. It would be good community relations and wouldn't jeopardize their ability hold out for yet another Cafe Nero or T-Mobile store.
The issue with Harvard Square is a bit different. Rumor has it some overseas investor is buying up all the buildings and plans to make HS a luxury community of high priced condos and high end stores and restaurants.
He's letting everything sit vacant so foot traffic will die down so he can scoop up the remaining properties at bargain prices.
Don't believe me, look at real estate transactions for the buildings in and around the square for the past 10 years. It will show lots of transactions to shell companies (who all lead back to one developer).
Of course City of Cambridge turns a blind eye to this, which is suprising..
The consolidation has been public knowledge for many years. I thought there was already plans in the works to turn a good chunk of the square into an indoor mall of some sort. The most unique aspects of the Sq are 20+ years in the past -- it's almost passe to even complain.
The part about taxes is still true -- tax the shit out of these owners for leaving the place vacant. If Cambridge is willing to tie themselves in knots for retribution over the tea candle thing, you'd think they show some skin and make it clear no combined development will be approved.
Revere did this about 10 years ago to combat empty store fronts.
Particularly the old Stop & Shop in Northgate.
It worked. Now Revere has few empty store fronts.
In the Brattle Street area of Harvard Square, many of the buildings were owned by one landlord, which was a trust controlled by two families. I believe those families had controlled those buildings for about 100 years. Unfortunately, a few years ago the families had a disagreement and sold everything they owned -- perhaps it was the next generation coming into power.
The buildings they controlled included the Curious George Store building at the point of JFK and Brattle; the former Corcoran's, more recently Urban Outfitters, store; and the former Tess store on Brattle with the cylindrical windows. On the other side of Brattle, they had the entire block between Mass. Ave. and Palmer St., including the former Nini's Corner and the present Cardullo's; and the Art Deco-style block of low-rise stores behind the current Brattle Square plaza, including Felipe's, Monella, Brattle Square Florist, and up to the former Tannery/Concepts space.
For many years the trust that owned those buildings had been a benign influence on the square, renting to a nice variety of local stores and small office businesses above.
The buildings on the south side of Brattle (Curious George, etc.) went to one developer from Connecticut, who proposed gutting them and turning them into a mall. But that developer in turn got gobbled up by a New York City developer, Equity One, which also controls other office buildings around Boston (Including, I believe, the office and retail part of South Station). Those buildings have now been emptied of all tenants, except Curious George, which will apparently be leaving soon.
The buildings on the north side of Brattle (Cardullo's, Felipe's, etc.) were purchased by another developer, who seems to be based in North Carolina. They have likewise kicked out a number of tenants, although about half the stores have remained open. At least one store from that block has announced plans to relocate to a Harvard University-owned building on Church St.
Another investor, a Mr. Chan, originally from China but now living in Newton, and also a Harvard graduate, has purchased a large number of buildings scattered around the square -- which has been well documented in the Globe and elsewhere. His plans for his buildings have varied; he has kicked out some tenants but usually replaced them with new ones. He owns the former University Theatre on Church St., and has received approval to demolish it and replace it with new construction.
Harvard University owns a surprising number of buildings around the square, many of which have stores in the first floor. There are also still a number of local property owners, including Cambridge Savings Bank (which owns the adjacent buildings on JFK Street).
According to the Cambridge Assessor, the Artists Collaborative store on Church St. comes back to an LLC with a mailing address out of a law firm in a downtown Boston high-rise.
The theatre's emptiness has damaged the whole block around it, and beyond. People who waited in those long lines also ate and shopped elsewhere in the square. If Chan has approval to demolish and rebuild, why hasn't he started doing so?
That Harvard Square theatre building has been sitting empty for quite a few years. They should re-develop that movie theatre so that people use it again.
which would be run by the same folks who own the Somerville and Capitol theatres. I would just like this project to start already.
used to catch matinees at Harvard Square and ate at Young and Yee's beforehand. Many matinees, one meal at Young and Yee's, which was enough.
Just to clarify your last sentence, the LLC you refer to is the management company that manages the 59 Church Street building. It is not the Cambridge Artists Cooperative, we only rent that location. Thank you for sharing all of the information regarding the state of the Square.
high Havard Square rents
As someone currently just outside Harvard Square, I find the alternate spelling daunting.
"Haavard" I can understand. "Havard" makes me yearn for the Dukes of Havvard.
OK, OK, fixed.
Not as bad as calling the square HS.
JP would love to have them, I bet. I vacancy next to Forest Hills Check Cashing. JP loves artists!!
That's not surprising, given how expensive Harvard Square has become over the years, and the fact that others stores have done likewise.
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