Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A previously proposed design for milk &pizza in Harvard Square.

Continuing its inexorable trek through Cambridge’s administrative processes after initial rejection, milk &pizza’s attempt to occupy the Crimson Corner and Tory Row storefronts in Harvard Square is before the Planning Board on Tuesday.

&pizza is being heard in an advisory capacity only – which usually means the Planning Board will not accept oral public testimony, and may or may not hear directly from the Washington, D.C.-based pizza store applicant.

The board’s practice at this type of hearing is to give advice to the Board of Zoning Appeal – which that board is free to disregard – for its big hearing at 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10. (The zoning board usually runs behind schedule, and is not allowed to take up cases earlier than scheduled). It’ll be &pizza’s ninth hearing.

It’s not clear what time the Planning Board will discuss &pizza. Its Tuesday agenda starts at 6:30 p.m. and has two major items that could easily take an hour each, but the agenda explicitly states the board may take items out of order.

It’s also unclear if the Planning Board will be reviewing &pizza’s final plans. Nothing has been filed with the planning or zoning board since June, but “We’re still very much heads-down and making progress towards a thoughtful and compelling presentation to the BZA on Aug. 10. I’m expecting a set of revised designs by the end of the week,” said Lauren Freundlich, a spokeswoman for &pizza.

After The Boston Globe ran an article ridiculing Cambridge’s required approval for pizza (“How much pizza is too much pizza? In Cambridge, there’s a government board for that.”), many younger citizens and online commenters expressed support for &pizza’s proposal.

But so far, the only letters sent to the Planning Board have been two in opposition:

James Williamson, a resident who speaks out regularly about development, wrote that “The ‘new’ proposal – in so far as it can be ascertained … – appears to be actually worse than earlier proposals. … The design fails.”

Suzanne Blier, a Harvard professor and founder of the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association, called it “still highly problematic” and pleaded for wainscoting.

Williamson and Blier also raised procedural questions about &pizza’s lack of additional submissions. But the zoning board rules only require submission by 5 p.m. Aug. 7, though &pizza has missed submission deadlines before. More than once.


A draft image of &pizza’s latest design circulating among Harvard Square advocates, allegedly provided by &pizza. Representatives of the eatery say they are work-in-progress images not intended to be presented publicly.

Draft images of &pizza’s revised concept that have been circulating privately show a black awning over the former Tory Row space on Brattle Street, a crimson awning over the former Crimson Corner space in the middle and a smaller pair of pink-and-white striped awnings (Milk Bar corporate coloring) stretching around the Massachusetts Avenue corner. The renderings conspicuously omit the umbrellas that had been requested and favored in prior rounds of review; that suggests either the renderings are incomplete, or &pizza is making a significant shift in appearance.

But those “renderings sound like works-in-progress and likely won’t be presented to the Board on Tuesday,” Freundlich said.

Vote for fast food

The zoning board chairman, Constantine Alexander, generally votes against fast food special permits, saying such applicants fail to establish the “need” required by zoning. Alexander famously said in April, “a pizza is a pizza is a pizza. And we have 11 pizza places that are offer pizza in the Harvard Square and why is there a need for 12?”

But last Thursday, Alexander and the board voted unanimously in favor of Pokéworks getting a fast food permit just up the street at Massachusetts Avenue and Church Street, replacing Liquiteria. Why? Because Pokéworks will be the only food of its kind in Harvard Square: Hawaiian poke, sushi (or chicken) with vegetables over salad and rice.

Update on Aug. 1, 2017: This image showing the latest exterior rendering of milk &pizza has become available. Notably, the umbrellas are retained and the middle awning is now white.