Following a year of uncertainty, The World’s Only Curious George Store is poised to keep its spot in Harvard Square for the long haul.
The iconic Cambridge toy shop announced Monday that it had agreed to an updated lease with its building’s redeveloper that would more or less secure its current location in the Abbot Building on the corner of JFK and Brattle streets for the foreseeable future. The Abbot and two other Harvard Square buildings are set for a sweeping redesign led by real estate firm Regency Centers. The project had threatened the Curious George Store’s long-term standing in the area.
“Our home in Harvard Square is critical to both our identity and the success of the store,” Curious George Store owner Adam Hirsch said in a statement. “We are pleased that Regency Centers was willing to work with us to find a creative solution and look forward to continuing to delight residents and visitors alike with our quirky mix of Curious George products, books, children’s toys and other items.”
In an interview Monday afternoon, Hirsch said the agreement allows him to keep the store’s iconic yellow doors open through the summer of 2019, when the first stage of construction on the Abbot Building is finished.
During the following renovation phase, Hirsch said the store would be relocated to a nearby location within the footprint of the overall project for roughly a year, after which it will return to roughly the same location as it is now.
Hirsch said the store’s “final destination” would put its main entrance 20 feet to the left or right of where it currently stands. The final timeline for the renovation project is contingent upon the approval of the Cambridge Planning Board, which is currently reviewing the new proposal.
Hirsch, who as recently as last fall said he anticipated having to move the beloved shop out of the area, credited Regency Centers for their “thoughtfulness” and “understanding” of his store’s history and connection with Harvard Square.
“They decided it would really be beneficial to find a way that works for them and works for us,” he said.
Sam Stiebel, vice president of investments for the Jacksonville-based corporation, said it became clear in their discussion with the local civic and business community that the unique store is a “key part of the fabric of Harvard Square.”
“Given that one of our priorities for this project is maintaining a dynamic and interesting retail mix in Harvard Square, we knew it was imperative to find a way to maintain Curious George as a tenant in our building,” Stiebel said.
Cambridge Vice Mayor Marc McGovern applauded the new deal.
“I’ve been clear since day one that keeping Curious George in the Abbot building would set the tone for the kind of project this would be,” McGovern said in a statement.
After reports surfaced last year that the Curious George Store’s long-term status was in jeopardy under the original redevelopment plan, Hirsch said he has had to fight the misconception that his shop was closed or closing. With its future now secure, he again encouraged both longtime fans and those who have never visited the store to stop by this holiday season.
“We want to be clear: Curious George is open for business, as are the other great retail shops in Harvard Square,” he said. “Come visit us.”