Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Crimson Corner newsstand in Harvard Square is due to relocate in April. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

The Crimson Corner newsstand in Harvard Square will move down the street to 35 Brattle St. in mid-April, owner Chris Kotelly said. It will keep the name Crimson Corner.

Crimson Corner lost its lease in January for its current home in the center of the square, at the intersection of Brattle Street and Massachusetts Avenue. With uncertainty about the status of its expected replacement, an &pizza eatery, it was able to hang on a few months longer.

Crimson Corner owner Chris Kotelly. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

Kotelly said the new space – occupied by the Sound Lion audio tech shop until a year ago – was smaller, with less retail frontage, and for a higher rent. But his new lease is for four years with an option to stay until 2025, he said. He plans to be open in the new space April 10, closing the old space April 9.

Both spaces are owned by the Dow family but managed through Colliers International, which took over management from Harvard Square retail broker Dick Getz several years ago. Colliers has been raising rents as leases expire. Although Kotelly, Colliers and Getz have all declined to give numbers, it’s been rumored that rents that were as low as $90 per square foot have doubled.

Future of space uncertain

The incoming tenant, Washington D.C. -based &pizza, may have an uphill battle as it tries to take over the current Crimson Corner space and adjoining former Tory Row restaurant.

&pizza may require approval from the Cambridge Historical Commission for significant storefront changes, a fast food special permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals to be heard April 27, and will have a review by the Harvard Square Advisory Committee on March 22.

It appeared before the Historical Commission in January with an outdoor trellis plan, and the commission unanimously voted to deny it a certificate of appropriateness. The commission felt it was “inappropriate to the district and incongruous to its setting.

The fast food permit from the zoning board is much more discretionary, and requires that the board find “the establishment fulfills a need for such a service in the neighborhood,” which can be a difficult standard. Like all special permits, it is also required to find the proposed use would not “impair the integrity of the district.”

On March 9, &pizza attorney Karen Simao appeared before the zoning board to request a second continuance to the April 27 hearing. The original Jan. 12 hearing was continued after the Historical Commission shot down the trellis plan. Simao’s second continuance request said “our office underwent a change of personnel and gained new staff members. Thus, we have appointed a new point of contact for the applicant.”

Zoning board chairman Constantine Alexander told &pizza on Thursday, “We don’t like to keep continuing cases. Generally the rule is two strikes, you’re out – baseball it’s three strikes.”

“We’re confident there’ll be unanimous support for it,” Simao said.