the forward fund

Winner's Announced

Read more about the final selections.

Purpose and goals

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority’s Forward Fund (the Fund) is a micro-grant program intended to reinvest development funds generated in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Area to fund pilot projects by non-profit organizations, community groups, and small businesses across the City of Cambridge. The Fund supports specific physical improvement projects that better Cambridge’s built environment for the benefit of all the city’s residents, workers, and visitors. 

The Fund's goals are to:

  • Advance the CRA’s mission to implement creative initiatives that promote social equity and a balanced economic system.
  • Support innovative proposals that craft resourceful projects to take advantage of local knowledge in order to maximize potential benefits. 
  • Offer awards to a diverse set of entities whose proposals are both feasible and supportive of economic vitality, livability, and sustainability in Cambridge. 

Available Funding

The CRA will distribute up to $40,000 during the inaugural funding process. The CRA reserves the right to allocate funding flexibly depending on the quality of applications received.

Two Award Types

Applicants may apply for one of two award types. The award categories are:

  • Planning & Design grants: Awards of up to a maximum of $2,500 offered to applicants aiming to assess/study the feasibility of a specific proposed physical intervention project. Planning & Design grants are paid at the time of award. For the purposes of this inaugural phase, funds are not to be used for programming, only for the development of ideas for a specific physical improvement project.
  • Capital grants: Awards of up to a maximum of $10,000 offered to applicants piloting innovative specific physical improvement projects. Capital grants require a 1:1 organizational match - which could include another outside funding source or in-kind/volunteer matching resource[1]. Capital grants are paid 50% at the time of award, and 50% at the completion of the project. For the purposes of this inaugural phase, funds are not to be used for programming, only specific physical improvements.

Who should apply

The Fund is intended to use resources generated in Cambridge, combined with talent and organizational capacity within Cambridge, to ultimately benefit the city in new and imaginative ways. In this pilot phase eligibility is intentionally left open to any Cambridge-based nonprofit (501c3) organization, Cambridge-based nonprofit organization that has an agreement with a (501c3) fiscal sponsor, or a Cambridge-based independent small business. It is anticipated the applicants may include neighborhood groups, human services organizations, independent restaurants, retailers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, civic organizations, and more.

What Types of Projects We expect

In the spirit of our first operating principle – Act – the CRA Forward Fund is intended to use redevelopment tools imaginatively to take action by piloting innovative projects throughout the City. Ultimately the audience for these projects is all Cambridge residents, workers, and visitors. There is no theme or required topic that projects must focus on during this inaugural phase. By keeping the Fund as open-ended as possible we hope inspire and touch more people, get more tangibly accomplished, build the civic and social capital of the City, and ultimately advance the future of Cambridge forward, faster.

While we are not specifying a theme or topic for the projects, the following are some suggested themes to prompt creative ideas and conversation. Think about how the following concepts relate to the physical urban landscape and/or tackle an existing problem or need in the urban landscape: Invention, reflection, exploration, history, discovery, fun, mystery, welcome, commentary, delight, legibility, explanation, grace, industrial design.

Eligibility Criteria

Projects must meet all of the following yes/no criteria in order to be eligible:

  1. Located within Cambridge.
  2. Achieves a physical improvement that does not require any additional ongoing funding from the CRA or the City to operate or maintain. Funds are not to be used for programming, only physical improvements.
  3. Request does not exceed award maximums.
  4. Applicant is a Cambridge-based nonprofit organization (501c3), a Cambridge-based organization that has an agreement with a (501c3) fiscal sponsor, or is a Cambridge-based independent small business[3]. No public sector applicants are allowed.
  5. All applicants must explain or show how the CRA will be directly and creatively acknowledged as a funding source in their application and how the project relates to the CRA mission and operating principles.
  6. The applicant must have control over proposed installation site, or have a letter of support from the property owner.

Evaluation Criteria

Project proposals will be evaluated and scored based on the following criteria by an advisory group to consist of a combination of CRA staff and City of Cambridge staff from various departments:

Project Related Scoring Criteria:

  1. Alignment with the purpose and goals of the Fund and the CRA mission and operating principles
  2. Increase the quality of the built environment / public realm, tackle a public need, or provide an amenity
  3. Demonstrates a tangible public benefit in an under-resourced area of Cambridge designated by the City of Cambridge Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas
  4. Alignment with and support of current Cambridge planning and development efforts and regulations[4]
  5. Level of public access and visibility of the project

Applicant Related Scoring Criteria:

  1. Demonstrated capacity of applicant to successfully implement the project
  2. Realistic financial feasibility of the project
  3. Financial need of applicant

The CRA reserves the right to apply additional evaluation criteria before accepting projects.


Application and Awarding of Funds

I. Planning & Design Grants (max $2,500)

  • Submit online application form and attachment
  • Forward Fund advisory group assesses proposals
  • Finalists meet with CRA staff
  • Applicants and awardees are notified
  • Awards are issued in full
  • Outcome reporting due within two months of completion date

II. Capital Grants (max $10,000)

  • Submit online application form and attachment
  • Forward Fund advisory group assesses proposals
  • Finalists meet with CRA staff
  • Applicants and awardees are notified
  • Applicants seek and obtain permits necessary for project implementation, submit finalized budget proposals
  • Provisional 50% awards are granted to awardees who have successfully obtained the necessary permits and documentation of matching funds and/or services
  • Final 50% of funds are granted after completion of the project
  • Outcome reporting within two months of completion date



As the CRA seeks to continuously improve and expand our program offerings, we hope to understand and document our impact in the Cambridge community.

  • Awardees need to document the impact of the final project with any combination of photos, a short written narrative, a video, or other creative mediums.
  • Within two months of project completion but no later than twelve months from the date of the award announcement, awardees are asked to submit these materials regarding their project’s impact for the community.
  • Quantitative data is encouraged if relevant and available (i.e.: number of people visiting the site, number of people attending an event, associated matching or fundraising, economic impact, etc).

Governance Structure

A CRA staff member responsible for receiving applications and responding to questions regarding the application process will manage the Forward Fund on a day-to-day basis. An advisory group consisting of CRA and City of Cambridge staff from various departments will be appointed to evaluate proposals and determine winners. The advisory group consists of the following members:

Chris Basler, Economic Development (Community Development Department)
Gary Chan, Community Planning (Community Development Department)
Jason Zogg, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority
Kathy Watkins, Department of Public Works
Lillian Hsu, Cambridge Arts Council
Martha Flynn, Inspectional Services Department
Martha Tai, Cambridge Housing Authority
Nancy Tauber, Kids Council (Human Services Department)
Paul Ryder, Recreation (Human Services Department)

Submission Deadline

Grant applications are due Monday, April 13, 2015, with funding approvals announced by Monday, May 25, 2015.

Submission Format

Digital submissions using the online application are preferred; however, hardcopy applications will be accepted, postmarked by the submission deadline, at the address below:

Forward Fund - Cambridge Redevelopment Authority
255 Main Street, Fourth Floor 
Cambridge, MA 02140



Please see our FAQ page. All interested parties with questions not answered there are encouraged to contact the CRA. 

Contact:           Jason Zogg, Program Manager


Telephone:       617-492-6800 x12


CRA Mission:

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) is committed to implementing imaginative, creative development that achieves social equity and environmental sustainability. Our goal is to work in the public interest to facilitate infrastructure investments and development projects that integrate commercial, housing, civic and open space uses. We are a public real estate entity with a unique set of redevelopment tools, working in close partnership with the City of Cambridge and other organizations.

CRA Operating Principles:

  1. Act
  2. Operate with transparency
  3. Maximize the public benefit
  4. Operate with fiscal responsibility
  5. Set an example

Learn more about the CRA's mission and history and its 2014 Strategic Plan.


The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority reserves the right to terminate the distribution of awards if it is determined that the funds are not, without prior notification and approval, being used for the purpose approved through the project application.

[1] For example, due to the required 1:1 match if the ask is $10k, the total project value is expected to be $20,000 and above, if the ask is $7k, the total project value is expected to be $14k and above, etc. In-kind matches such as pro-bono work by an architecture firm for example must have a letter that specifies a statement of value of those in-kind matching services.

[2] If an organization is not a 501c3 it must have an agreement with a 501c3 fiscal sponsor that will act as the fiduciary for the purposes of disbursing CRA funds

[3] If an organization is not a 501c3 it must have an agreement with a 501c3 fiscal sponsor that will act as the fiduciary for the purposes of disbursing CRA funds

[4] Cambridge planning and redevelopment efforts can be found on the Community Development Department website under “Planning & Urban Design,” “Transportation,” “Climate & Energy,” and “Parks & Playgrounds”