Harvard Square kiosk will host CultureHouse community events until renovations in spring
The Harvard Square kiosk will be filled with programming by CultureHouse, the “living room for the community” or “indoor public park” that launched in the summer of 2018 at Bow Market in Somerville’s Union Square and has been in Kendall Square since July. The agreement was announced Friday.
The iconic kiosk will be empty as soon as Oct. 31, because Muckey’s, operator of the Out of Town News, told the city in September that it would no longer be renewing its lease month to month.
“The city didn’t want the kiosk to be empty over the winter and into the spring. It’s a high-traffic area,” CultureHouse community and communications lead Allie Girouard said.
CultureHouse will do a fit-out of the kiosk in November, installing its handmade Adirondack chairs, hanging a swing or two and perhaps adding some stages in preparation for whatever events the group will host there, Girouard said. The agreement signed Friday runs through the end of April.
At its Kendall Square space, the group has hosted such events as film screenings, pingpong tournaments, trivia and game nights and general hangouts. It will bring “the same idea of a community living room” to the Harvard Square space, but it’s “a cozier space to begin with, and will feel different,” Girouard said.
The 500-square-foot structure began as a subway headhouse in 1928, but was relocated to make way for the current T stop bunker and began use as a newsstand nearby starting in 1984. The city, which owns the kiosk, decided to shift it to public use of some kind in 2016. A renovation of the kiosk and surrounding brick plaza is set to begin in spring for a total $8.6 million. (The city has included an Eliot Street reconstruction in the project for another $4, though Eliot Street is not connected directly with the kiosk.)
CultureHouse initially filled out the city’s “request for information” application to become the long-term operator of a refurbished kiosk, and that RFI became the basis for the city reaching out with the short-term offer, Girouard said. But the stint could be more or less a dry run for getting the popup a permanent home. “We’re definitely open to that,” Girouard said. “This will show how physically a CultureHouse would operate. It’s proof of concept.”
While the group’s contract with BioMed Realty in Kendall Square was set to run out Oct. 31, it has been extended and will now end in March, according to a spokesman for BioMed.
“CultureHouse has become a huge draw in Kendall Square,” said Andrea Windhausen, community manager at BioMed. “Their arts- and culture- focused programming are a great preview of the kind of community we hope to build in the Canal District through the development of 585 Third St.,” the site once intended to become a performance hall known as the Constellation Center.
The two CultureHouses will operate simultaneously, Girouard said.
BioMed funds the CultureHouse space at 500 Kendall St., and the city has contributed some funds to adapting the kiosk for community programming – but not all that will be needed. “It’s a tight turnaround for grants,” Girouard said. “If Harvard wanted to give us some money, we wouldn’t be averse.”