Harvard Coop Closes for 'Major Renovation'
The Harvard Coop, Cambridge, Mass., is taking advantage of the pandemic-induced reduction of activity in Harvard Square to undergo a major renovation in one concerted effort. Harvard magazine reported that the construction, "which began in mid-December, was originally conceived in several stages to keep the store open even as the work proceeded. But given the intensity of the pandemic late last year, it made more sense to close the store and accelerate the project." Customers can still purchase books and merchandise online, or in person at the Palmer Street building.
"We're bringing it back to its bones," said Coop president Jerry Murphy.
The new project will address infrastructure, merchandising and a consolidation of the retailing now distributed between the main store and the Palmer Street annex--both Coop-owned properties--and the leased space facing Brattle Street. Overall book inventory will be reduced as the operations are consolidated, Murphy said, but core genres of books that are most important to Coop customers have been increased while fringe categories have been scaled back.
"The air conditioning, heating, and electricity is shared between our two buildings," he added. "We want to separate the buildings and upgrade all the equipment since it's very old."
The renovated bookselling areas in the main building "will include more space for customers to move around and practice social distancing successfully," Harvard magazine wrote, adding: "The renovation will also include installing touchless doors in the front and touchless transactions at the register: new retailing priorities in the Covid era."
Architecturally, the foyer will be restored. "We're going to re-do all the lights for the ceiling and install new terrazzo flooring," said facilities manager John Ciancio. "The chandeliers are being restored by Grand Light, a Connecticut company that specializes in fine lighting restoration. This is beautiful artisan woodwork and artwork here, so we want to bring it back."
"The Harvard libraries are doing away with darker wood, and you'll see that same thing here," Murphy added.
The lower level--where children's and young-adult books were displayed before the closure--will contain more Harvard merchandise, while half the main level and the whole of the upper floors will carry the books, with the third floor also including a permanent event space. The café has been permanently removed. Renovations are scheduled to be completed by early May.
"We used to be a department store for all of Cambridge," Ciancio observed. "But then the malls were built and the MBTA extended the Red Line, and that changed the dynamics within the Square.... Every graduating class has something they remember that isn't here anymore, but that's life."