Rodney’s stays; sign law goes, for now; and church gets status update
Illness forced a reduced writing schedule last week, so allow me to catch up briefly on a few items:
Rodney’s Bookstore, a mainstay of Central Square, will not close in the next few months, as its owner warned in May. The Boston Globe reported Nov. 8 that a renegotiated lease means the two-story bookstore can stay in business and possibly even keep making the profit begun with its current shelf-emptying sale. (It failed, fortunately, to sell off all 100,000 volumes, and is over Friday.) The store, which has been in business for about a decade, is to stay open indefinitely — or, as store owner Shaw Taylor told the Globe, at least another five years.
Taylor, who said he has run the business at a loss for a couple of years, implicitly identified a second hero in the story: property owner Riverside Management of Somerville. Taylor is not the first business owner on the block to note Riverside’s interest in keeping culturally enlivening shops open in Central instead of maximizing profit.
The store is at 698 Massachusetts Ave.
The infamous Cambridge sign ordinance was rescinded Nov. 1 by the City Council in an 8-1 vote. The council had voted 6-3 in favor of the law Sept. 27, but was forced to reconsider by a petition drive paid for by Terry Ragon, who runs health care software maker InterSystems at 1 Memorial Drive.
The council had been learning toward holding a special election to let voters decide, as several members noted how ignorant professional signature gatherers and many constituents seemed of what the law actually did. Then the city manager told them the price of a special election: $170,000.
That didn’t mean councillors were giving up the cause, which most describe as reforming a piecemeal and somewhat arbitrary sign application process into one that is more consistent and formal. The full council cited “a well-financed campaign which included misinformation and exaggeration” in a policy order asking the city manager to “establish a special task force to make a comprehensive study of the issues … and to make recommendations to the City Council and the Planning Board on this matter.”
The holdout to the rescission was councillor Tim Toomey.
Porter Square’s St. James’s Episcopal Church was recommended for historical landmark status Nov. 4 by the city’s Historical Commission, although the status has to be approved by the City Council. The status would put restrictions on what changes Oaktree Development — or any developer, ever — could make to the 122-year-old structure as puts up a 46-condominium building wrapping around it from Massachusetts Avenue to Beech Street. Oaktree bought the former car wash next to the church two years ago, then expanded its project’s footprint onto church land by offering the congregation endowment money it could use on charitable missions and to keep up with maintenance on the beautiful, but ailing, building. Karen Klinger has the details at her Cambridge Community Television blog.