Cambridge, MA is a complex place

Though I still have stories from Cambridge, NY to share, I want to return to the blog’s mission to reflect on all the Cambridges and write today about my own Cambridge, MA.

Harvard GateMany people, to the extent that they know or think about Cambridge, MA, picture a scene like the photo on the right.  Leaf-covered brick buildings on a campus, be it Harvard or MIT or Lesley University.  There are plenty of spots from which you can catch a scene like this.  (The photo is of a relatively undertrafficked area where I happened to be walking one day.)

What may be less known is that, even in a small city like this Kendall Sq, 3one, there are corners with a completely different vibe.  In the photo to the left, we see what the Kendall Square area, with its IT and biotech research and manufacturing spaces, looks like from across the Charles River in Boston.  After decades of gentle change, Kendall has sprouted like mushrooms in recent years.

Cranes in Kendall

Every time I’m in the area, I see a building that wasn’t complete, or didn’t exist, the previous time.  It’s insane!  There are a zillion cranes in the area at any moment.

All that growth is also something of a mixed blessing.  The city undeniably benefits from the jobs and internships for young people that new and old companies bring.  And Cambridge is fortunate to have a broad tax base, meaning real estate taxes on residents remain low.  Plus, many companies participate in the city, beyond simply employing residents.  But that explosive growth has also resulted in dislocation.  All the new companies mean lots of people looking for housing.  Neighborhoods are changing more quickly than the residents can join forces to preserve the spaces they value.

Longfellow House

These contrasts go beyond the universities and technology sector that drive much of Cambridge public life.  While some neighborhoods feature houses like this one, many city residents lack stable housing.

When I consider how we think about U.S. Cambridges, then, I’m aware that perspectives will differ from Cambridge to Cambridge, but also from corner to corner of the particular Cambridge we live in.  There may be more opportunities for stark contrasts in a larger place, such as Cambridge, MA, but even the residents of a Cambridge, NY will hold distinct views.

(That house, by the way, is actually a National Historic Site (Washington slept here!), but some of its neighbors are almost as grand.)

3 thoughts on “Cambridge, MA is a complex place

  1. An important perspective to remember. Our feelings about a place are colored by the areas of the place we know.


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