The city formally kicked off the project last Wednesday with an indoor "groundbreaking." Because of rain, the ceremony was held at Phatt Boys on Church Street.
The wide-ranging project has been in the works since April 2002 when a design advisory committee began meeting, said City Manager Bob Healy. He marveled that such a complicated project involving so many property owners could be agreed to so quickly.
The project has the support of the Harvard Square Business Association, including financial contributions. The project would enhance the square's attractiveness, which HSBA President John DiGiovanni said has "the life and energy that so many places try to imitate."
Mayor Michael Sullivan said the changes, which would include widening sidewalks and improving street lighting, position Harvard Square to face its real competition.
"Our competition isn't so much other squares as malls," Sullivan said.
Harvard University contributed about a third of the project's cost, according to spokeswoman Mary Power. She said the project would benefit all the stakeholders in the square, including for-profit organizations and nonprofits; artistic and cultural groups; and public and private concerns. She praised the project for not imposing a top-down vision, but rather improving and expanding public space.
"People resist when you try to pickle the dynamism of the square," Power said.
Harvard Square is getting a $3.5 million makeover. Here are four of the changes that will have the most impact on pedestrians.
1. Church Street
The sidewalk on the movie theater side will be widened by 5 feet. The street will remain two-way for cars, but parking will be on only one side of the street.
2. Palmer Street
Cobblestones will be replaced by concrete, and cars will be prohibited on weekends. There will be public art installations that include murals.
3. Winthrop Street
There will be more space made available for pedestrians, and the street will be made more accessible for the handicapped.
4. Lampoon Plaza
A pedestrian crossing island will be built at Mt. Auburn and Linden streets, and green space will replace asphalt.