by Lindsey Parietti
Today the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue between Trolley Square and the Alewife-Brook Parkway is a visually depressing, grey and noisy strip of road. Yet developers are eating up every inch of available space as they prime North Cambridge to become something more like neighboring Davis Square.
“Davis Square is a cool, hip, funky predominately middle class area that is starting to bleed into Cambridge,” Sam Seidel, an urban planner affiliated with local politics said. “We are watching North Cambridge transition. It used to be a place that people drive through, but it is becoming a place that people drive to.”
Along the roughly 10 blocks between Cameron Avenue and the Alewife-Brook Parkway there are seven new buildings advertising available space, many still under construction.
The most recent additions are the 40 affordable housing units and 1,200 square feet of retail space at Trolley Square, former home of the early trolley barns used by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The MBTA traded the land to Cambridge in exchange for a site to develop the Alewife subway stop, said Susan D. Glazer, deputy director of the Community Development Department.
“Certainly Mass Ave. is a major link between Arlington and Harvard Square, but in the past five years more people are seeing it as an opportunity to develop,” Glazer said. “The city rarely has extra land that it can build upon, so it was also an opportunity for us.”
Glazer said the city has involved residents by holding community meetings throughout the development process.
Yet locals are still worried about overcrowding, and with good reason said City Councilman Craig A. Kelley, the only member of the council living in North Cambridge.