Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Emack & Bolio’s ice cream is coming, sending Porter Square another swift step toward destinationhood despite gigantic, and gigantically slow, construction. The opening: as soon as two weeks.

“It’s ambitious,” said Bob Rook, president of the ice cream chain, putting an opening even before July — when he hopes the city will deliver a “pedestrian park” to match. The ice cream shop will be small, taking about half the space once devoted to the arts and crafts shops attached to CVS, and provides little room for eating.

Don’t count on the July date, though. The city’s Bill Deignan expects the park to be “substantially complete by the end of this construction season,” meaning before bad weather makes work impossible. “The plaza should be recognizable by then,” but things such as tree plantings may have to wait for next year.

Porter Square has long been bedeviled by a lack of loitering appeal; it’s a place to run errands, but not a place to hang out, as Davis Square or Harvard Square are. The developer Gravestar redesigned Porter’s shopping area recently, at least placing benches along the businesses, but the spread-out nature of the square tends to overpower the improvements. The best public space in the square isn’t even public: It’s Pizzeria Uno’s outside dining area, which suddenly became attractive this summer with the addition of tablecloths and small trees.

Plans for Porter’s redesign may achieve the goal of making the entire space a piece of public art, but they will do little to address the problem. The plans offer only “boulders” and “individual seats [that] will allow people to rest on their way through the square.”

Fortunately, Gravestar asked for a slight enlargement of construction so “cafe seating” could go in, said the company’s Michael Dougherty, agreeing with Rook and Deignan that this indicates tables for group seating. Dougherty hopes Emack & Bolio’s will be selling ice cream July 1, and for the pedestrian park to follow.

“It should be a very nice spot,” he said.