The developer who hopes to revive the Harvard Square Theater in Cambridge has shared new plans for the project as his company begins the process of seeking city approvals.
A firm owned by investor Gerald Chan says it wants to create a dynamic, LED-embedded facade along Church Street on the face of a five-story office building, with storefronts along the sidewalk and a rebuilt two-screen theater. The facade would be used to display various images — “abstract art or photography or a schoolchild’s drawing,” the company said in a statement — “but no advertising would be allowed.”
“We are thrilled to bring life back to this building, not just on the inside,” said Nathan Wong, project manager for Chan’s Kirche LLC, in a statement. “The exterior also will be creative, vibrant, and meant to engage the community.”
Chan, who bought the building in 2015, first came forth with plans more than a year ago after pressure from city officials to reopen the theater, which closed in 2012.
He aims to knock it down and replace it with a two-screen theater, in a nod to the building’s nearly century-old history. Decades ago, it was known as a place to see foreign films and Bogart classics on the big screen for a few dollars. It was also the scene of some memorable musical performances — in February 1979 the British punk band The Clash played the theater on their first US tour, and in May 1974, a Bruce Springsteen performance compelled then-rock critic Jon Landau to write that he had seen “rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
The new building would also include three storefronts and 36,000 square feet of office space on its upper floors. The design, by Portuguese firm Promontorio in collaboration with Elizabeth Whittaker of Boston-based Merge Architects, aims to let more light and air into the interior, which would feature a courtyard and rooftop terrace for workers.
Kirche intends to soon file plans with the Cambridge Historical Commission, which must approve demolition of the theater.
A hearing is likely in September. The project also needs approval from the city’s Planning Board.