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Globe: Hard times in Union Square


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Globe: Hard times in Union Square

J Bert | Sep 5, 2004 10:07 AM

This explains some of the recent reports of troubles at The Independent... i've noticed the same about Union Square and hope Somerville can get its act together. This is obviously one of those matters where the city does have to take an active role if things are to improve.


It’s so not hip to be Union Square
Businesses struggle in stubborn slump

By Benjamin Gedan, Globe Correspondent
September 5, 2004

Its oval promotional stickers, colorless and lowercase, are still everywhere, on parking meters, street signs, and lampposts.

But eat, the once-hot restaurant with the small ''e," has been gutted, its barroom reduced to exposed pipe and dangling wires.

Next door, at The Independent, things look more promising. Walls are covered with wide mirrors, and black leather booths sit on a polished wood floor. The dessert menu includes creme brule.

This upscale eatery, however, is also foundering. In July, three years after opening to stellar reviews, its owner, Kenneth Kelly, said he is losing $200,000 a year and is contemplating closing shop.

His struggle, in part a reflection of the country's still sputtering economy, reveals a broader dilemma: Union Square is stuck in a stubborn slump.

''You look at everything around, it's a little bit dreary," said Kelly, who opened a nearby nightclub, Toast, in Union Square last year.

Located at the intersection of Somerville Avenue and Prospect Street, Union Square bustled in the 1950s, with thriving banks, pharmacies, and hardware shops. Before malls and affordable family cars made the scene, residents relied on local businesses, and many others found their way to the city's streetcar hub.

Today, the crowds gather in Harvard Square, Davis Square, and downtown Boston, all about one mile away. And Union Square, without a theater, cinema, bowling alley, or subway stop, comes alive, if ever, only on a weekend night.

''I don't think any of us have Swiss bank accounts," said Feargal O'Toole, a part owner of Tir Na Nog, an Irish pub that opened in 1996 on Somerville Avenue. Unlike Harvard Square, he said, ''Union Square doesn't get [tour] buses or trolley tours. You don't see people walking around."

(the link below connects to the full article)


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