Blank Street Coffee, a chain known for its efficiency and lower priced coffee, celebrated its grand opening on Thursday with $2 drinks and lines spilling out into the Square.
Situated on 1380 Massachusetts Ave., the Harvard Square location is Blank Street’s fourth storefront in the Greater Boston area. During a soft opening Tuesday, Blank Street boasted completely free drinks.
The chain was founded in 2020 and has since expanded to operate more than 70 stores in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and London. According to Blank Street co-founder Vinay Menda, Harvard Square is the chain’s first location on a college campus.
“We were drawn to Cambridge — with a mix of students, faculty and local residents, we feel Harvard Square is a natural fit for our next storefront,” Menda wrote in an emailed statement.
Blank Street Chief of Staff Evan S. Mateen ’20 wrote in an email that he believes the store’s space — adjacent to Harvard Yard and the Smith Campus Center — is the “perfect location” for students to grab a coffee between classes.
“As a Harvard alum, it’s always been a goal of mine to bring Blank Street to campus. Harvard Square is one of the key nodes in Cambridge, so I’m honored for Blank Street to have a presence there,” Mateen wrote.
“When I was at Harvard, I wished there were more high quality, convenient options around campus, so I’m excited that we’re able to offer exactly what I was looking for during my time there,” he added. “As a brand, we believe in enriching daily rituals and we know coffee is an important one, especially with college students.”
Blank Street’s locations “prioritize convenience,” according to Menda. Customers can order ahead on the mobile app and participate in a subscription program called “Regulars,” a subscription service that costs a fixed rate for up to 14 drinks per week.
Since unveiling plans to completely transform the Garage in 2021, the developer’s president said the company is “choosing not to proceed” with the building’s redevelopment until it finds a “major, quality tenant.”
The Garage is a shopping center at 36 JFK St. that houses a number of Harvard Square businesses and restaurants, including Lê’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Subway, and Newbury Comics. The developer — Trinity Property Management — planned to renovate the structure into a six-story building.
John P. DiGiovanni, president of Trinity Property Management, said the “vast majority” of the new building will be office space. Without a tenant to rent this space, the project will be “way too expensive,” DiGiovanni said, even though the project has received nearly all city permits.
DiGiovanni said plans to redevelop the Garage began around five years ago when Trinity began studying the problems faced by its tenants and found that the Garage’s “physical conditions” do not “meet the demands” of the current generation.
“I could see that our tenants, particularly on the second floor and even interior food — their sales were dropping,” DiGiovanni said, adding that these businesses “couldn’t compete” with those on the street level.
In addition, the building is energy inefficient, and the Mt. Auburn Street and JFK Street entrances are inaccessible, he said.
“We were trying to find a way to just preserve it and just make some tweaks and make it more accessible or interesting,” DiGiovanni said.
“That was really not viable — and in some cases, you hate to say this in a construction way, almost physically impossible,” he added.
The proposed building includes approximately 89,000 square feet of space and would be six stories tall, with the upper floors being mostly office space and the lower ones dedicated to retail.
It will also be LEED gold-certified — the second-highest energy efficiency rating — and “engage with the district, the street in a way that it ought to in the 21st century,” according to DiGiovanni.
DiGiovanni said it was “unfortunate” that the Covid-19 pandemic hit during the planning process, adding that both “the lack of demand for office space” and higher costs have affected Trinity’s ability to move forward with the development.
Once the project kicks off, DiGiovanni said the entire process — from demolition to putting up a new structure — would take “around 30 to 36 months.”
Since the announcement of the redevelopment plans, some of the Garage’s tenants have departed because they “want certainty,” according to DiGiovanni, who said these exits have been a “loss” for Trinity.
Project includes large residential building for Harvard affiliates, will add to vibrancy of emerging hub of creativity, innovation
he Boston Planning and Development Agency on Thursday approved an innovative new University project in Allston that will serve as the new home for the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) and add 276 residential units amid a housing crunch in Greater Boston.
The 70,000 square-foot David E. and Stacey L. Goel Center for Creativity and Performance will include two flexible performance venues, rehearsal studios, teaching spaces, a spacious public lobby, and an outdoor performance yard. The 175 North Harvard St. project will also include a residential building that can accommodate about 500 Harvard affiliates in units ranging in size from studios to four-bedroom townhouses.
“Harvard is delighted to move ahead with creating a new home for the A.R.T. in Allston. This center for creativity and performance will enable the A.R.T. to expand its remarkable and dynamic work and will add to the creative energy already developing within the Harvard Innovation Labs, Harvard Business School, the Science Engineering Complex, and the emerging Enterprise Research Campus, all within the existing robust arts scene in Allston,” said Harvard’s Executive Vice President Meredith Weenick.
“We are thrilled that the creation of significant new University housing might reduce pressure on a stressed local housing market and create further opportunities for the Harvard community to more deeply engage in Allston’s creative and distinct neighborhood culture,” she said. “We are grateful to the city of Boston, the BPDA, and our Allston-Brighton community partners and elected officials for their collaboration and engagement throughout this process.”
The project will be located around the corner from the University’s Science and Engineering Complex on Western Avenue and a half-mile from the Enterprise Research Campus, which is under development in partnership with Tishman Speyer. Planners hope the creation of a new home for A.R.T. and significant residential space will further enhance and add vibrancy to an area that is becoming a hub of creativity and innovation in Allston.
Maccabee Bar stages an annual Hanukkah-themed pop-up at Harvard Square’s Noir (1 Bennett St.) starting on Wednesday, Nov. 29. Creator Naomi Levy serves latke sours and other signature sips alongside jelly doughnuts from pastry maven Kate Holowchik. Visit www.maccabeebar.com for the latest hours.
Kari Kuelzer, 53, lives in the Cambridge house she grew up in — convenient, since she also runs Grendel’s Den in Harvard Square, her second home since her parents started it in 1971.
She’s been well-known around the neighborhood for decades and even grew up doing theater with Matt Damon in his breakdancing days. In fact, Kuelzer enjoyed a show-biz stint in Los Angeles, too. But, unlike her famous classmate, she returned home to become known on a smaller stage. Now she’s in charge at Grendel’s (with some serving help from her college-age son, another Rindge graduate).
A few weeks ago, she branched out with another cozy pub down the street, Sea Hag. For those who aren’t literary scholars: Both names are nods to “Beowulf.” Her late mom christened the original, and Sea Hag is Kuelzer’s tribute to her.
In Hallmark holiday movies, the shopping scenes always have the same vibe: Cute, cozy, outdoorsy with lots of places for characters to get toasty. There’s rarely a mall, seldom a big box store and almost never a tablet screen for the shopping center.
Luckily, we can find that in real-life.
Welcome to the holiday market set up, a concept that’s taken on a myriad of interpretations. Across the Bay State, you’ll find all kinds of great holiday markets, from seaside and quaint to bustling in the big city.
They all share this in common: You’ll not only find your Hallmark holiday shopping bliss, you’ll find unique gifts as well. Consider these options, a few of the many holiday markets out there this season.
Harvard Square Holiday Fair: A tradition since 1986, the Harvard Square Holiday Fair (https://www.harvardsquareholidayfair.com/) takes place this year Dec. 15-17 and Dec. 21-23.
Java junkies rejoice as Blank Street Coffee opens up shop in Harvard Square in Cambridge, its fourth location in Boston after entering the area in August 2022.
Similar to past Boston openings, Blank Street Harvard Square on 1380 Massachusetts Avenue will offer baked goods from Salem-based A&J King, as well as offering $2 drinks for the first two days of opening starting Thursday, Nov. 16.
“Boston has welcomed us with open arms since we opened our first store in the area last August, and we are excited to continue growing our presence with our new location at Harvard Square,” Vinay Menda, Blank Street’s co-founder, told the Daily Voice. “We can’t wait to immerse ourselves in the Harvard community and bring Blank Street to students, faculty and locals!”
College students will also be happy to know that Blank Street has a Regulars program, the store’s loyalty program that offers a subscription to get free drinks or at a reduced price.
Some of the coffee drinks available on opening day include:
Arrow Street Arts announces March 2024 launch festival celebrating the official opening of its Harvard Square venue.
Arrow Street Arts, Inc. (ASA), a Cambridge, MA-based non-profit, announces the official opening of its new venue in Harvard Square with a week-long Launch Festival in late March 2024. Produced by Cambridge-based Liars and Believers (LaB) led by executive producer Georgia Lyman and artistic director Jason Slavick, the festival will offer a wide variety of performances, events, and community gatherings celebrating the vibrant diversity of the Greater Boston performing arts community. ASA’s Launch Festival marks the beginning of the venue’s inaugural year of activity, with the facility beginning regular operations on April 1, 2024.
Arrow Street Arts, founded by David Altshuler, a long-time Cambridge resident and arts advocate, reflects the vision that “Art Creates Community and Community Creates Belonging.” A multi-space performance and event facility, the venue hosted a mid-construction, soft-opening activation of its main theater with Moonbox Productions’ presentation of Sweeney Todd that just completed a successful four-week run. ASA’s street-front Studio will be activated as a rehearsal, class, and small presentation space in early December 2023. Final renovations to the building and installation of seating and theatrical systems will be completed this winter before the full opening.
ASA and Liars and Believers will launch an open call to performing artists later this month with the goal of assembling a varied range of performances and genres to occur during the opening festival. These performing artists will be selected by a jury panel assembled by LaB’s Executive Producer Georgia Lyman, and the opening programming will include these artists alongside a group of curated performances and a special performance by Liars and Believers. If selected, artists will receive a compensation package to produce their works. Selected artists will be notified in January 2024, and more information about the programming of the opening festival will be announced shortly thereafter.
New Fund at Cambridge Community Foundation Expands Access to ASA Spaces
In addition to its revitalization of the two performance spaces, Arrow Street Arts has partnered with the Cambridge Community Foundation (CCF) to increase equitable access to the performance spaces for artists and arts organizations who wish to present their work at ASA’s venues. The foundation of and for all of Cambridge, CCF aspires to make the community vibrant, just, and equitable for all, today and into the future.
ASA founder David Altshuler says, “We are thrilled to kick off our inaugural year of programming in our new performance spaces with our opening Launch Festival. We know partnering with Georgia and Jason and Liars and Believers will be a fantastic collaboration to bring in dynamic performing artists who will utilize the spaces to their fullest capacity. Through our relationship with the Cambridge Community Foundation, we can’t wait to welcome a wide array of local artists and creators. This festival will further promote Cambridge as an artistic hub.”
“Through our partnership with Arrow Street Arts, we hope to increase access, particularly for artists from historically underserved and diverse backgrounds, to affordable and welcoming arts spaces in Cambridge,” said Christina Turner, director of programs and grantmaking at CCF. “This fund is one piece in the Foundation’s commitment to strengthening the creative capacity of arts and culture in Cambridge now and into the future.”
Informed by the region’s well-documented need for accessible rehearsal and performance spaces, most notably in the Boston Performing Arts Facilities Assessment and Cambridge’s Mayor’s Arts Task Force Report, Arrow Street Arts addresses the pressing need of small to mid-size organizations and individual artists for spaces accommodating audiences ranging from 150-600. Outfitted with comprehensive lighting, sound, and production capacities, ASA’s facility offers both venues and production services that will help meet community and artists’ needs.
Locally focused and artist-centric, Arrow Street Arts is committed to being a learning organization, exploring issues of affordability, access, equity, and sustainability and increasing the resources available to artists and community organizations, such as the Arrow Street Arts Fund at the Cambridge Community Foundation.
Founded by David Altshuler, with renovations planned by Charles Rose Architects, the 11,500 square-foot Arrow Street facility will be revitalized with extensive production enhancements to two flexible performance spaces and other upgrades that will enhance both the audience and artist experiences. A 4,500 square-foot black box theater will offer various seating configurations for up to approximately 300 audience members, and a new 1,100 square-foot street-front studio will offer a more intimate venue for smaller presentations and events as well as rehearsals and classes. Both multi-use spaces will support projects across a range of artistic genres, including theater, spoken word/readings, dance, music, and film.
Saint Paul’s Choir School (SPCS) presents “Christmas in Harvard Square,” a concert of festive seasonal Christmas music, on Sundays, December 10 and 17, 3 pm, at St. Paul’s Parish, 29 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge. SPCS’s Boys’ Choir, perform together with the Schola of St. Paul’s, Back Bay Brass, and instrumental accompaniment, including percussion, harp, and organ. The program includes many traditional favorites, including SPCS Founder Theodore Marier’s beloved setting of “Silent Night,” musical selections from the 10th through 21st centuries, including a plainsong “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and the Nigerian carol “Betelehemu.” General, reserved, and premium seating tickets range from $35 to $70, available at christmasinharvardsquare.com.
“Christmas in Harvard Square,” features a delightful mix of traditional and contemporary music of composers Benjamin Britten, Franz Biebl, Herbert Howells, Theodore Marier, among others. Audiences return yearly to this joyful celebration of the Christmas season, a beloved annual tradition, sung by one of the few boy choirs in the United States. Attendees enjoy the rare opportunity to hear the boy choristers perform in concert, offering a program that transcends their weekly Mass duties and worship services at St. Paul’s Parish.
SPCS Interim Director of Music Richard Webster leads the ensemble, together with Associate Music Director Brandon Straub. Webster brings an impressive five decades of experience to his appointment for the 2023-24 academic year, previously serving as director of music and as organist at Trinity Church in Copley Square for 17 years, and 29 years as organist and choirmaster at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois, where he directed its Choir of Men and Boys and the Girls Choir to much acclaim.
“I’ve held only three jobs in my life, and this, in the best way, is by far the most challenging,” says Webster, a nod to his appointment at St. Paul’s Choir School. “To serve a school that’s very serious about music means that I still have the privilege of growing and learning myself.”
St. Paul’s Choir School is the only all-boys Catholic choir school in the United States, sustaining longtime collaborations with Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Boston Pops Orchestra.
“Christmas in Harvard Square is a unique twist on what you would normally hear at St. Paul’s. This is not Mass, it’s not Vespers, it’s a concert of traditional sacred music, and music that’s not at all traditional. It offers multicultural works, several helming from faraway places,” explains Webster.
Those attending the concert also have the chance to join the choir in singing the traditional favorite carols “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “Come All Ye Faithful.” This traditional concert experience is enriched by St. Paul’s outstanding acoustic, which Webster touts as “one of the best in the Boston area.”
To learn more about “Christmas in Harvard Square,” or to order tickets, visit christmasinharvardsquare.com. To learn about Saint Paul’s Choir School’s enrollment, curriculum, programs and performances, visit saintpaulschoirschool.us, call 617-868-8658, or follow St. Paul’s Choir School Harvard Square on social media.