Historical Commission executive director Charlie Sullivan shows a picture from a recent visit to construction at The Abbot in Harvard Square during a Wednesday online meeting.

The Abbot, a four-story block of retail, offices and restaurants due to open early next year in the heart of Harvard Square, is already signing leases – including one that brought groans from Historical Commission members Wednesday.

Half of the former Urban Outfitters space on ground level at 11 JFK St. will become a Chase Bank, commission executive director Charlie Sullivan said.

“Oh, good, a bank,” commission chair Bruce Irving joked, as another member played along: “Just what we needed.”

“Yeah, great,” Sullivan laughed along.

Harvard Square, which benefits from a tang of counterculture that’s faded over decades of leasing to chain stores and a tedious abundance of banks, suffered badly over the pandemic as street traffic halted and shoppers moved online for safety and convenience. Sullivan suggested that the economic malaise played a role in decisions at The Abbot, a structure of 65,336 square feet owned by Regency Centers. An online Regency prospectus viewed Thursday said 15 spaces were available.

“It’s no secret they might not be leasing as they hoped,” Sullivan said.

Construction at The Abbot is seen from JFK St., Harvard Square, in September. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Messages seeking leasing information were left with Regency brokers by email after the Historical Commission meeting.

One of the biggest local property owners, Gerald Chan, was described as “being depressed about Harvard Square during the shutdown, and it’s not an unreasonable attitude about Harvard Square real estate recently. But Harvard Square is coming back,” Sullivan said.

The exterior of the triangular building with storefronts on JFK and Brattle streets is almost finished, Sullivan told commissioners, and he’d recently toured the interior, including a two-story atrium that exposes original steel from 1909. The two-story space offers capacity for another tenant coming to The Abbot: a climbing gym.

Change at Dickson Bros.

Next door, the future of the former Dickson Bros. True Value is also beginning to take shape, Sullivan told commissioners: Chan bought the 26 Brattle St. building, where the hardware store closed in the summer of 2020, and is expected to occupy at least the second-story space with real estate offices that now operate out of Newton. He is using the same architect as The Abbot, Prellwitz Chilinski Associates of Inman Square, and may leave some or all of its 2,350 square feet at ground level for a retail use.

The city recorded a $10.1 million purchase of the Dickson Bros. building in November 2020.

“They have some fondness for the Dickson Bros. sign,” Sullivan said. “I [told them] that we would certainly support preserving that sign.”

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