Sunday, July 14, 2024

Yume Ga Arukara is one of two Porter Square, Cambridge, restaurants being moved to a more prominent location, Lesley University says. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The on-again, off-again plan by Lesley University to relocate two restaurants from an inside food court to prime street-front real estate is on again and official, according to a Monday letter from school president Janet Steinmayer and chief operations officer Joanne Kossuth.

Yume Ga Arukara and Ittoku will move to the street-front space at 1815 Massachusetts Ave. occupied by the Shaking Crab from 2017 until mid-Covid pandemic. “The operations team worked very hard to make sure our longtime local tenants had the opportunity to expand in the Porter Square neighborhood,” Steinmayer said. “This new space will give these businesses more visibility and room to better serve their growing customer base.”

The restaurants plan to stay as “open as possible” during the move and “ask for your patience,” Steinmayer told the Lesley community.

The move is expected to be complete in the fall, she said. During annual town-gown reports delivered Feb. 13 to the Planning Board, Kossuth said the eatery “changes will happen this summer.”

Owners of the food court restaurants inside University Hall – a former Sears owned by Lesley that is often still called the Porter Exchange – said in July 2022 that designers working for the university were measuring them for a move into the street corner location, a Lesley-owned storefront long empty, alongside similarly empty spaces that held an urgent care clinic, bank branch and Bourbon Coffee shop.

That plan was confirmed in a June 23 interview with Steinmayer, who said the relocation was happening but had been slowed by engineering complications. Less than a month later, a sales brochure for the site from the Graffito leasing firm showed there were three retail spaces available along Massachusetts Avenue – 1,781 square feet that was Bourbon Coffee; 4,401 square feet of former Webster Bank; and 2,000 square feet of ex-Partners urgent care clinic – but with all existing food stalls staying in place and the Shaking Crab location still identified as a “full-service restaurant.” Sixty-four days after a request for clarification, Lesley released a statement saying the restaurants weren’t moving, which is where things stood until the Planning Board meeting overturned that.

Ittoku is a Japanese restaurant that became popular in Brighton before relocating across the Charles to Porter Square to take over space from Wafu-Ya, which before that was the long-lasting Bluefin eatery. Yume Ga Arukara is a casual Japanese udon destination from the restaurateurs behind Yume Wo Katare, a nearby ramen joint where fans continue to line up daily for a seat despite it opening in the fall of 2012. 

The space left empty by the two restaurants in what Lesley calls “UHall” will likely be more classrooms and an events area, Steinmayer and Kossuth said. Those uses will be alongside remaining food court businesses such as Cafe Mami; the I Love Sushi bar; Sapporo Ramen; Tampopo; and the Yotopia mini-mart and bubble tea shop.

Originally the relocation of the eateries was to make room for a concierge desk for students and a gallery for the sale of art by students and alumni. That art store opened months ago without publicity, a spokesperson said. An attempt to visit the store Monday was frustrated by the door being locked and security not having a magnetic badge that would allow access – but apparently because the student art is in a judging period and not available for browsing.