Credit: Hopkins Architects

Campus & Community

Serving up community and sustainable fare

Smith Campus Center first-floor food vendors are named

4 min read

A diverse array of food options will populate the first floor of the newly renovated Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center (SCC), which remains on track for its grand opening later this year.

Pavement Coffeehouse, Swissbäkers, Bon Me, Whole Heart Provisions, Blackbird Doughnuts, Saloniki, and Oggi Gourmet will all open for business in the early fall.

“Food and drink play a central role in bringing people together, and I am pleased that members of the Harvard — and Harvard Square — community will have so many options when the Smith Campus Center reopens,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “It is exciting to imagine the kinds of conversations and collaborations that will be sparked in the new venues, and I am grateful to the many, many people who provided input and made this important project possible.”

During the past several years, planners have met with hundreds of people — including multiple groups of students, faculty, staff, and community members — to hear suggestions and develop guiding principles for the types of amenities that should be included in the project. An overwhelming consensus emerged: potential vendors must be simultaneously sustainable, local, healthy, and diverse, and have significant experience running successful food venues.

The criteria gave the project’s planners a clarity of mission.

“When we were developing the food program for the Smith Campus Center we sought to engage and work with food operators who were excited by the idea of partnering with Harvard in a way that was more than just signing a lease,” said Meredith Weenick, vice president for campus services. “The selected vendors are as committed as we are to the bigger picture, and their goals align with ours — goals of being sustainable, welcoming, and an integral part of the wider Harvard community.”

The University required that the restaurants sign green-building leases, ensuring that their practices align with the standards outlined in Harvard’s Sustainability Plan.

The focus groups also requested that the atmosphere of the new space be casual and comfortable. With hearty, “feel-good” fare throughout the day, and more than 800 indoor and outdoor seats, the new space will meet that criteria.

“We’re excited to be part of the Harvard community and Harvard Square as a whole,” said Eric Papachristos, owner of Saloniki. “We feel the diversity of the neighborhood, young and old, residents and tourists, students and professors … it’s the perfect cross-section of what is going on in today’s world — and we are honored to be able to feed this community

“We believe that our focus on culture, service, and integrity of our food will be a great addition to what is already happening in the Square,” he added.

Layout of the new eateries in the renovated Smith Campus Center.

The owners of Blackbird Doughnuts agreed.

“As a home-grown, Boston-based artisanal doughnut shop, Blackbird’s focus has been in Boston proper. When presented with the opportunity to open in the Smith Campus Center and iconic Harvard Square, we jumped,” said owner Rebecca Roth Gullo. “The Smith Campus Center will be the crown jewel of Harvard Square and we are thrilled that Blackbird will be smack in the center of it. The area has so much going on — diversity, history, national exposure, and we are so excited to be part of the recent growth.”

Bon Me has operated a food truck on Harvard’s campus since 2013 and co-owner Patrick Lynch is “thrilled” to be among the first-floor vendors. “This project is exactly the type of dynamic and vibrant space that we love to be a part of, and our healthy and unique Asian food should be a great addition to the campus and Harvard Square,” he said.

Harvard has finalized lease negotiations with all of the food operators, and vendors have received the necessary zoning approvals.

Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said the renovated center “will significantly add to the diverse and exciting character that exists throughout Harvard Square. We appreciate Harvard’s willingness to shape that project in a way that reflects the extensive dialogue and input from all community partners.”