Monday, April 9, 2012

A Coffee Shop Opens in Mid-Cambridge

In the way that neighborhood events can elevate a local happening into a bigger thing, it was with some measure of excitement that Mid-Cambridge welcomed the opening of dwelltime (yes, I believe the name begins with a lowercase "d"), a new place to grab a quick cappuccino and croissant.  Because in Mid-Cambridge, that is what we grab: a cappuccino and a croissant.

You used to be able to buy old furniture here
Many moons in the making, dwelltime opened its doors in the space of the old Hubley Furniture auction house on Broadway, just down the street from the Gather Here store at the corner of Lee Street.  These two new shops now animate a small row of non-conforming businesses into a vibrant mini-corridor in the midst of a neighborhood.  It is a nice "revival" of sorts of this stretch of shops, and shows a very good example of how retail can work at a scale that fits with the neighborhood.  The key ingredient is getting the right uses in the spaces.

Cambridge does process well, and this one was no exception.  Whether dealing with the city or dealing with the neighbors, there was lots of talking to do.  Permit-seeking was multi-layered.  Neighbors raised their hackles.  Rooftop mechanicals, the machines that heat and cool and vent the air of buildings, are the bane of all neighborhoods because they involve fans which always involve noise.  Compromises were sought.  And found.  Then other neighbors raised their hackles, and compromises were sought but not found.  This second issue involved a sign facing out onto Broadway -- was it appropriate for the street and the district.  When I was on the City Council, I thought it was. I still do (see photo).

Now, if only they could get some more chairs
Still for every new venture, the fundamental question always remains: Build it, but will they come?  Hardly open an hour, Dwelltime saw the coffee-drinking hoards arrive.  And they have kept coming since.  Objections aside, people want their coffee here.    They vote with their feet, in droves, in the front door.

And by the way, my review: Two Thumbs Up -- excellent coffee and food.