Friday, July 19, 2024

The Harvard Square kiosk has held a newsstand since 1984, but the operator of Out of Town News has decided to leave as construction nears. (Photo: Prayitno via Flickr)

Though a renovation of Harvard Square’s iconic kiosk doesn’t begin until the spring, it will be empty as soon as Oct. 31, city staff said Friday.

Muckeys, the tenant that has been maintaining the space as the Out of Town News newsstand – its use since 1984 – has submitted a 60-day notice to end its lease, according to a communication from the City Manager’s Office seen by city councillors. The lease ended July 31, according to the Historical Commission, but could be extended month-to-month.

“Staff inquired whether the tenant would be interested in extending its lease to Jan. 31, but Muckey’s indicated it is not interested in any further extensions,” city staff said in the notice. 

Out of Town News sells a variety of newspapers and magazines inside and out. (Photo: Dominique Rouge)

Out of Town News stayed even as the city began work in 2017 for the plan that would see it ousted: a roughly $12.6 million upgrade of Eliot Street; the brick plaza that includes the kiosk, subway headhouse and the legendary gathering place known as “The Pit”; and the kiosk itself. (The revamp of the area was described originally as a $4.5 million project.) The company was told it had to leave eventually to make room for refurbishment and the kiosk’s new use as a visitor information booth – a nearby freestanding information booth is being removed – as well as a flexible space for civic functions, commercial use and performances.

A newsstand across the street known as Crimson Corner – and before that as Nini’s Corner, opened by Joseph Nini in 1962 – moved in 2017 to make room for a pizza shop and dessert stand. It relocated two blocks and two corners up Brattle Street, losing most of its print publications in favor of a focus on Harvard-themed tourist merchandise.  

The Department of Public Works and staff at Cambridge Arts will install artwork at the kiosk to be displayed until construction begins, according to city staff. A design proposal for the kiosk includes folding doors on the west side and digital rooftop signs for information “and revenue,” according to the Historical Commission.

Determining the future of the kiosk hasn’t been simple, starting with some residents’ fears that the process was being driven toward an overly commercial use by the Harvard Square Business Association. A unanimous vote in 2017 for landmarking the structure assuaged some fears. 

In April, the city issued a call for potential operators of the kiosk to offer feedback in hopes of being better able to “define criteria and strategies for selecting” one. The request for proposals that results will be open for public review before its final form is decided, the city said.

This post was updated Sept. 19, 2019, to correct that an existing information booth will be removed.