A NEW HOPE? When Economy Hardware filed for bankruptcy in 2010, MIT bought the property (above), added space for Cambridge Community Television, and built an adjoining mixed-use building that houses three hopeful new businesses.
Rowe stands across from the block MIT is about to demolish and considers it. "This block needs redevelopment," he says. He points to the east. "You can see the dome there — the heart of MIT campus."
A block away, two recent MIT developments showcase the way the east side of the neighborhood might look in the coming years. After Central Square fixture Economy Hardware filed for bankruptcy in 2010, MIT fixed up and divided the space to house both the hardware store and the new studios of Cambridge Community Television. Next door, where once was a vacant parcel of land, MIT constructed a mixed-use building that now houses the Central Square Theater, Veggie Galaxy, and Moksa, an 8500-square-foot Asian small-plates restaurant, bar, and nightclub scheduled to open Monday.
"I think these two projects are helping to anchor the revitalization of Central Square," Rowe says. "They're real assets to the community." He pauses. "'Revitalize' is the wrong word — I think it's to enhance it and to enliven it. I think the arts and the nightlife are all great things — we don't want to change any of it. We want to enhance it, keep the spirit of it, and help it."
MIT subsidizes the rent of both of these cultural organizations, Rowe says. When CCTV faced a significant rent increase for their old studios on Prospect Street, MIT saved the day. Through an initiative called Tenant Improvement Allowance, the organization was able to move into a larger space and put money toward a new build-out without paying any more rent. "We're not paying the inflated rents that MIT could get for the space," says CCTV Executive Director Susan Fleischmann.
GETTING IN NOW Solmon Chowdhury grew up in Central Square, and always wanted to return there with a new business. His latest restaurant, Moksa, opens in Central on Monday.
Moksa proprietor Solmon Chowdhury grew up in Central Square before the boom. As a teenager in the '90s, he had jobs at many now-shuttered stores around the neighborhood: at Burger King, a store called Coquette, and Radio Shack. Now a successful restaurateur, he owns Om in Harvard Square and Shanti in Dorchester. When he decided to open his latest venture, he knew he wanted to return to his old neighborhood.
"There are so many changes going on in Central Square," Chowdhury says. "The city has a lot of plans. We thought we'd get in before we got priced out."
Eugenia Williamson can be reached at email@example.com.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Flour Bakery and Central Bottle on the ground floor of Pfizer's Mass Ave offices.Flour and Central Bottle are on the ground floor of Novartis offices. The story also incorrectly stated that the Necco factory that Novartis converted into lab and office space is part of University Park; in fact,the former Necco building (250 Mass Ave) is not part of University Park. Also, Novartis's new development is on approximately four acres of land, not 35 acres. A quote attributed to Sarah Gallop should have been attributed to Kathryn Brown of Forest City. And MIT purchased Economy Harvard more than 30 years ago, not in 2010.