Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza

Harvard Square Kiosk / Out of Town News

Project Overview

In 2017, the City established a Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza Working Group, composed of residents, business and property owners, representatives from local institutions, and urban design experts, to create a vision for the future use, operation, and governance of the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza.

The Working Group process has involved broad public input, including surveys, community meetings, pop-up workshops, and a Call for Ideas. Based on this community feedback and regular meetings, the Working Group developed a set of recommendations for the future of this space in the heart of Harvard Square, featured in the Vision (also see below) and Recommendations sections of the Working Group Final Report.

map of kiosk and plaza

Project Update

The City has entered into an agreement with CultureHouse to activate the Harvard Square Kiosk as a community gathering space prior to the start of construction of the Kiosk and Plaza redevelopment project. The City intends to issue an RFP for a long-term operator for the Kiosk this winter. However, with the current tenant slated to leave at the end of October 2019, and construction anticipated to begin in Spring/Summer 2020, the City would like to ensure that this central, iconic place remains active and vibrant in the approximately six-month interval prior to the start of construction. CultureHouse would need a few weeks to fit-out the space for public use, and aims to open the space and host events that are free to Cambridge residents, students, workers and visitors starting in early December. CultureHouse is a local non-profit that works to create “public social infrastructure through the transformation of unused spaces into vibrant places to work, play, and foster connections.”

Working Group's Vision

The Working Group envisions the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza to be flexible, dynamic, and welcoming community assets that enhance the everyday life of Harvard Square, act as platforms for community gatherings, including civic, artistic, and social activities, and attract and serve a broad range of people, including residents, students, visitors, etc.

The interior of the Kiosk would function as a flexible space accommodating permanent and temporary community uses. Permanent uses would feature a Visitor Information Center with displays focused on Cambridge history and happenings and the provision of news, brochures, and other materials. Temporary uses would occupy a portion of the interior space intermittently during the span of a typical week, including informal public seating for gatherings. The Plaza would also accommodate a range of temporary programming serving the community. During periods of both temporary and regular use, the interior space would, in addition to acting as a space for relaxing, sitting, reading, meeting, etc., address in part key themes identified by Kiosk Working Group members and other participants in the public process, namely: local history, news, information about local events and services, and visitor information functions.

Design Open House

On January 31, 2019, the City hosted a Design Open House to solicit feedback from the community on the latest design concepts for renovating the Kiosk and redesigning the Plaza. Materials from the meeting are available here:

Watch a video simulation of the design proposed at the Open House:

Next Steps

To implement part of the Working Group's vision, the City expects to hire an entity to operate the Kiosk daily, and execute temporary programming. In the effort to procure an operator, the City is driven by the following goals:

  • Encourage a broad range of potential operators to submit proposals
  • Allow for potential operators to use some creativity in applying the program scope to maximize the value they could provide
  • Conduct a fair, transparent, and open process

Upcoming Safety Improvements – August 26, 2020

As a part of the City’s Vision Zero rapid response protocols, staff conducted a preliminary site visit after the fatal crash that occurred last week in Harvard Square. During the site visit, staff identified parts of the existing plans for the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza project that can be modified and implemented as quick-build improvements beginning next week. Quick-build plans include changes to the roadway that can be made with pavement markings, flex posts, signs, and signal timing changes. More information about these quick-build improvements are available here.

Notice: December 5, 2019

As part of the City’s commitment to Vision Zero*, City staff have taken a closer look at the Super Crosswalk area (pedestrian crossing between the Kiosk and the Harvard Coop) to determine if additional safety measures can be incorporated into the scope of the reconstruction of the plaza. Staff have identified traffic signal changes that support travel lane reductions and improve the safety for all users. The changes will simplify the overall operation of the intersection; reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians; provide additional plaza space; and simplify the merge for cyclists and motorists travelling towards Porter Square. We invite you to attend the meeting to learn more about these safety improvements and provide input on the design changes.

Location: Isaacson Room, Harvard Smith Campus Center
Date: Thursday December 5, 2019
Time: 6:00 – 7:30 P.M.

*Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.

RFI Responses Due Thursday, May 9, 2019

IN April 2019, the City issued a Request for Information (RFI), which asked parties interested in being the Kiosk operator to offer feedback on the feasibility of the scope and limitations. With input from experienced and creative professionals, the City hopes to better define criteria and strategies for selecting an operator. The City welcomed information from entities with a variety of operational backgrounds to help plan for the most dynamic experience for the many constituents who will use the Kiosk and Plaza. The City will use feedback generated through the RFI process to help create a stronger Request for Proposals (RFP), which would be used to solicit proposals for fulfilling the service envisioned.

Cambridge Historical Commission Meeting

On Thursday, May 2, 2019 the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza project will be discussed at a public hearing hosted by the Cambridge Historical Commission. The meeting will take place at the Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Ave., at 6:00 p.m. 

Click here to access all documents related to the public hearing, including the Application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the renovation and alterations to the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza.

Working Group Meetings

The most recent Working Group meeting was held on November 29th, 2018. To view presentations and meeting notes, click on the "Meeting Notes and Documents" tab above.

City Council Committee Hearing

On October 23rd, 2018, the City Council's Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee held public hearing to discuss the status of the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza project.

Community Engagement Summaries

Project for Public Spaces developed a summary of community engagement efforts in fall 2017, as well as more detailed documentation, covering feedback received from pop up workshops, an October 4th community meeting and site visit, online and in person surveys, and the Call for Ideas.

Call for Ideas

During September and October of 2017, the City invited members of the public to propose visions for the future use and programming of the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza. All submitted ideas can be found here: www.harvardsquarekiosk.tumblr.com.

Proposals were asked to reflect the following goals:

  • Flexible and adaptable – across seasons, different times of day, month, or year
  • Welcoming and safe for all users
  • A community gathering space
  • Navigable – maintaining the space as a busy transit thoroughfare
  • Dynamic and engaging

Proposals were also asked to consider the following:

  • The Kiosk is a historic building and any modification must be historically consistent. More information on the historic status of the building can be found in the Landmark Designation Report.
  • The MBTA station head house structure will remain.
  • The MBTA station elevator will be renovated. (See rendering)

In an effort to evaluate the proposals, Working Group members filled out a survey which included the following prompts:

  • Please select your five favorite ideas overall.
  • Please select up to five of your favorite ideas for the Kiosk.
  • Please select up to five of your favorite ideas for programming.
  • Please select up to five of your favorite ideas for physical improvements or amenities.

Click here to view the proposals with the most total votes for each of the four above prompts. The top three proposals (or a greater number in most cases due to ties) for each prompt were included in the diagram.

July 17, 2017

The City has awarded the contract for Harvard Square Kiosk Programming and Use Consulting Services to Project for Public Spaces (PPS). PPS will provide expertise in public space programming and community engagement around placemaking initiatives to the Working Group process and will work with City staff and the Working Group to develop recommendations for the use, governance, and operation of the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza. PPS's proposal can be found here.

July 13, 2017

Comment Period Open on the DRAFT Request for Qualifications for the Restoration / Renovations of the Historic Harvard Square Kiosk

The City will be issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for hiring a consultant to provide design and construction administration services for the restoration / renovations of the historic Harvard Square Kiosk. The City would like to provide an opportunity for community input on the scope for the RFQ. The comment period on the RFQ will be open until July 28, 2017 and comments will inform any changes to the RFQ before it is advertised. The RFQ is available under the Documents tab. Please submit your comments on the scope and evaluation criteria to Katherine Watkins, City Engineer, kwatkins@cambridgema.gov by July 28, 2017.

The City would like for a couple of members of the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza Working Group to participate on the Designer Selection Committee. This would involve approximately 10-15 hours of time working with City staff to review the qualifications from the consultants, shortlist the firms to determine which ones should be interviewed, and interviewing 3 firms. If you are a member of the Working Group and are interested in participating, please send an email expressing your interest to Stuart Dash and Katherine Watkins: sdash@cambridgema.gov and kwatkins@cambridgema.gov.

March 27, 2017

The City Manager has appointed the following members to the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza Working Group, including residents, subject matter experts, property owners, and representatives from local businesses and institutions:

  • Abra Berkowitz
  • Robyn Culbertson
  • Ankita Deshpande
  • John DiGiovanni
  • Mary Flynn
  • Timothy Hyde
  • Bertil Jean-Chronberg
  • Frank Kramer
  • Peter Kroon
  • Janet Si-Ming Lee
  • Thomas Lucey
  • Sohail Nasir
  • Sarah Rosenkrantz
  • Daniel Andrew Schofield-Bodt
  • Abhishek Syal
  • Kenneth Taylor

March 16, 2017

The City has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP), seeking proposals from a consultant or team to work with City staff and the upcoming Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza Working Group process to create a vision for programming and to develop models and recommendations for governance and operation of the Harvard Square Kiosk.

November 8, 2016

Call for Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza Working Group Members

The City is seeking volunteers to serve on a new Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza Working Group. This working group is being created to advise the City Manager on the vision, programming, operations and governance of the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza. Letters of Interest are due by December 2, 2016. For more information and instructions for sending a letter of interest, please click on the link provided.

Comment Period Open on the DRAFT Request for Proposals Harvard Square Kiosk Consulting Services

The City is interested in issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for hiring a consultant to assist the City to create a vision for the programming, operations and governance of the Harvard Square Kiosk.The City would like to provide an opportunity for community input on the scope for the RFP consulting services. Specifically, we are seeking public comment on the scope and evaluation criteria.

The comment period on the RFP will extend for three (3) weeks, and comments will inform any changes to the RFP before it is posted. The revised RFP will be posted for six (6) weeks to allow sufficient time to publicize the opportunity to potential respondents. The link to review the RFP scope is provided below. Please submit your comments on the scope and evaluation criteria to cddat344@cambridgema.gov.

Click on this link to review the DRAFT Request for Proposals Harvard Square Kiosk Programming and Use Consulting Services.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee conducted a public hearing on Thursday, September 28 to discuss the redesign of the Out of Town News Kiosk in Harvard Square. Click on the below links to the following presentations from Wednesday evening's meeting:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Neighborhood and Long-term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts, and Celebration Committee will be conducting a public hearing on Thursday, June 23rd from 5:30 P. M. to 7:00 P. M. in the Sullivan Chamber, Cambridge City Hall to discuss the formation of a special working group that will be tasked with developing a framework for the continued stewardship, curatorship, and oversight of the Out of Town News Kiosk in Harvard Square. Click here for the presentation from Thursday evening's meeting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The next Harvard Square Placemaking Community Workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, June 17th from 5:30 P. M. to 7:00 P. M. at the Smith Campus Center, 2nd Floor, 1344 Massachusetts Avenue. The entrance is located next to Cambridge Trust (to the left of the main entrance). A sign will be on the door indicating the location.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Follow-up Public Workshop

Join us for an evening of continued discussion on the ideas for the public space in the heart of Harvard Square including the Plazas at the T, Harvard's Forbes Plaza at Holyoke Center, and in front of the Coop. The session will kick off with a look at the public open space interventions to date, followed by further discussion of the four categories of actions in and around the plazas. (View Harvard Square Vision Plan report)

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Request for Information

Working Group Final Report

Community Engagement and Public Meeting Documentation

Working Group Meetings

City Council Committee Hearing

  • October 23, 2018 - Neighborhood & Long-Term Planning; Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee - Presentation

Call for Ideas

Supplemental Materials


Related Process: Harvard Square Placemaking Workshops (2013-2015)

For more information or to sign up to receive updates about the project, contact Daniel Wolf at 617/349-4618 or dwolf@cambridgema.gov.