Once Temporary, Starlight Square Now Opens Its Third Season


Allison Hunter Korn

Several CRLS events have been held at Starlight Square.

Miriam Stodolsky, Contributing Writer

Starlight Square, an outdoor community space in Central Square, officially began its third season on May 20th, 2022. What was once a parking lot now functions as a vibrant public space, hosting events ranging from student performances to farmers’ markets and pop-up shops. Upcoming events for this season include a Juneteenth celebration, a Latin American music showcase, and Boston Book Festival programming (you can find the full schedule on their website).

Yet this popular venue wasn’t originally intended to last so long. In 2020,  a press release from the Central Square Business Improvement District (CSBID) described Starlight Square as a “temporary intervention” prompted by COVID-19 and scheduled to close after just a few months. However, over the past two years, Starlight Square has proved to be an invaluable community resource. According to CSBID executive director, Luis Cotto, “Starlight Square has become a much needed third place for communities to gather.”

Will the community space eventually revert back to a parking lot?

Axelle Yanakakis-Carroll ’23 worked as one of the stage managers for a recent student-led production of A Chorus Line that was performed in Starlight Square. She shared her experience with the Register Forum, saying, “Starlight being available not only gave us a place to showcase our work, but also allowed for an open-air theater that was more Covid-safe.” She continued, “The best qualities of Starlight are easily its location and design. One really special thing that happened while we were performing at Starlight was that people would walk in from the street who weren’t planning on coming. Being right in Central Square, it allows for a wider audience to get to experience theater.”

CRLS’s junior prom is also set to occur in Starlight Square this year. Mariela Allen-Cadet ’23 commented, “I think it was a good decision to hold it outside, especially due to rising COVID cases nationwide and statewide.” 

As both Yanakakis-Caroll and Allen-Cadet observed, the coronavirus pandemic made outdoor spots like Starlight Square especially valuable. Despite this timeliness, Starlight Square was actually conceptualized back in 2019, simply as a way to create an important community space. CSBID described its vision as “a placekeeping effort,” “a place for people,” “a square within a square,” and “a civic commons.” These underlying values shaped the way Starlight Square runs today where events are free both to host and attend, and Starlight itself is managed by partnerships between non-profit organizations and the city. 

As Starlight kicks off its third year, it offers an example of what can happen when cities repurpose single-use spaces into multi-functional, community-centered, and accessible spaces. Yet Starlight Square entirely depends on the city’s continuing permission to operate. Even as Cantabridgians enjoy the current benefits of Starlight Square, the question remains: will there be even more years of Starlight to come or will the community space eventually revert back to a parking lot?

This piece also appears in our June 2022 print edition.