For more than 25 years, the Harvard Square Defense Fund was a group of neighbors who worked tirelessly to defend Harvard Square from all who threatened the unique cultural, historic and commercial vibrancy of Harvard Square. As the decades wore on, this previously indefatigable band of activists began to slow down. In 2008, the board voted to dissolve, leaving a gaping hole in the social structures that protected Harvard Square.
Fast forward to 2016. With real estate values escalating, the pressures on Harvard Square development reach unprecedented levels. Plans for the Harvard Square Kiosk include an HSBA-funded proposal to replace Out of Town News kiosk with an interactive information center and adding stadium seating and an approximately 23-foot-wide LED screen to the Pit. The Abbot building, home of the world's only Curious George store, is purchase by the largest shopping mall developer in the United States for the shocking sum of $85 million. Meanwhile, the Harvard Square Theatre has been vacant since 2012 - during which time Richard Friedman, owner of the Charles Hotel, purchased it and resold it to billionaire Gerald Chan for more than twice what he paid for it: $17.5 million.
Enter the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association. Formed initially as a group of citizens determined to defend the Harvard Square Kiosk, the group quickly realized that the need for a successor to the HSDF was greater than ever. With the support and encouragement of Pebble Gifford, the founder of the HSDF, a core group was able to successfully reinstate the Harvard Square Defense Fund as a public charity and to change its name to the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association (HSNA).
Since reinstatement, the HSNA has become one of the most popular neighborhood associations in Cambridge. The HSNA mailing list includes over 2,000 subscribers. Thousands more have seen the HSNA mention in reports from the Boston Globe, New England Cable News, Cambridge Day and other news sources. The HSNA has made a great start. With dedicated resources, imagine what we could accomplish with more neighbors to help us expand our reach. Our goals are to increase the resources available to the HSNA, to amplify its voice and to provide critical background research needed to help us leverage every option to protect Harvard Square.