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September 2007

ELEVATORS AT PORTER SQUARE T STATION
The design work is 60% finished. Construction has not yet been scheduled because the design needs to be finished enough to solicit bids. The hope is that work will begin in 2008 and should take about 18 months. Note that this work would be just to install the new elevators. Replacing the current elevators is a separate project.

The design is far enough along to start dealing with bicycle parking, specifically, where to put move it when the bridge over the tracks displaces much of what is there now. The current thinking is a triangular rack that will be in the plaza (not the park) along Mass Ave. This triangle would not interfere with the current pedestrian paths through that area.

Some work along Somerville Avenue to add some steps and adjust the grade for wheelchairs will also involve adding more bicycle parking. The station can accommodate 42 bikes, and will be able to accommodate 60 when the project is finished. The good news is that there is great demand for such parking.

We were asked for input on which style of bike rack we preferred, and a couple of knowledgable PSNA members referred the MBTA design team to the Cambridge Bicycle Committee, whose members really understand that stuff.

TAVERN IN THE SQUARE + CAP POLICY
Although these were separate agenda items, they bled into each other as Jinny Nathans and others asked some fairly pointed questions about the application.

Mr. Arcari intends to serve dinner until 11 p.m. and offer a bar menu until closing. He expects that 60-70% of his clientele to arrive by MBTA, but subsidized parking will be available in the back lot. The entrance to that lot off of Mass Ave has been closed for some time, but will be reopened to handle restaurant traffic.

The issue of most interest was the entertainment license. Mr. Arcari said at first that he wasn't sure he'd really use it, and then said that he'd use it mostly for Sunday brunch and for private parties that want to have their own bands. When asked about whether entertainment would be used to get through those slow winter months, Mr. Arcari said that he wanted to have the option. He also reported that he has not had a single violation of any of the licenses granted for his operation in Central Square.

With respect to the 2 a.m. closing, concerns about the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the building were raised. Specifically, we did not want to amend it through the back door. Concerns were also expressed about how patrons who arrive by the T would be getting home after 2 a.m. and having smokers milling around outside between 11 and 2. One PSNA member said that his office is above the restaurant in Central Square and reports that it's well run; but he doesn't know what it's like at night.

In the end, we decided to support the transfer or granting of any licenses that the Rustic Kitchen/Metro/Cottonwood had and to oppose the entertainment license and the extension of hours to 2 a.m. We liked Jinny Nathans's suggestion that he apply for single event licenses as needed; we'd be notified of each application.

In fairness, it looks like this restaurant will be a good fit for that space. The price point is right, and they are seeking to attract a neighborhood clientele (unlike Metro), and they did say that they'd like it to be a place to watch sports. They are installing windows on both sides like those at Temple Bar so that they can open in nice weather. However, if entertainment is on offer, those windows will be closed. They claim that the soundproofing on these sorts of doors is pretty good. (FWIW, that's been my experience in walking past the Joshua Tree in Davis Square on winter weekends during that long misery of the football season.)

FWIW, as a point of comparison, you might recall our concerns several years ago about Spirit, the bar that replaced that barbeque joint whose name I can't remember. We objected to the original plan to expand into the spot next door. They didn't, and that place has turned out pretty well. I've been known to a pint in there and will definitely have a couple more as long as the Red Sox are in the playoffs.

I ran into Mr. Arcari last week while chasing around on Hotel Kaya and learned that he did not get the entertainment license but did get the 2 a.m. closing that he asked for for six months. So he'll be back.

We didn't get as far into the CAP policy as I'd hoped because we ran out of time. I haven't been following this issue closely, and I learned that one of the changes has been to allow the transfer of licenses between capped areas. One implication of this is that license holders could move to in Harvard Square, draining the neighborhoods of their watering holes.

What also emerged from this discussion was the recognition that the MOA was signed 20 years ago, and that it would be worthwhile to take a look at it to see what, if anything, might be appropriate to change. PSNA is not a party to the agreement, but any amendment to it would require community support. Several PSNA members were involved in the original effort, and we'll be meeting soon to talk about it.

MICHELIN REVIEW OF MEETING SPACE
Lesley University provided a large, clean, well-lighted room with a view plus refreshments (cookies and coffee). The tables can be configured in many useful ways and lots of chairs are available.

Alas, there are a couple of drawbacks. First, the only way to get there is by two smallish elevators, so people arrived in batches of 5 every 7-8 minutes. Second, we probably wouldn't be able to have the same room every month.

And, of course, we shouldn't count on having the cookies every time.