Forward Fund 2017 Final Selections

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. 

Announcing the 2017 Forward Fund grant awardees...

NOTE: to view this page as a PDF click here.

To view the 2015 awardees click here. To view the 2016 awardees click here.

Community Infrastructure Capital Grants ($70,214)

  1. Cambridge Street Beautification (East Cambridge Business Assoc.)
  2. Fort Agassiz Annex (Agassiz Baldwin Community)
  3. Building Pillar 1: Child & Teen Services (Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House)
  4. Port Kiosk (Community Art Center)
  5. Building Modernization Project (Cambridge Community Center)

Civic Experimentation Capital Grants ($48,500)

  1. Tunnel of Light (Friends of the Greenway, Inc.)
  2. Wayfinders - Connecting 2 the I.E. "Innovation Economy" (Innovators for Purpose)
  3. Moses Youth Center Vertical Garden (Carolyn L. Arts)
  4. Suitsculptures (ROLO)

Community Infrastructure Capital Grants

1. cambridge street beautification


Non-Profit Organization 501(c)3

Jason Alves, primary contact
Project Location: Inman Square to Prospect Street

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“The East Cambridge Business Association (ECBA) views our beautification efforts for Cambridge Street as public benefit for business owners, residents, and visitors to our business district. The streetscape improvements reach our residents and patrons on many different levels. First and foremost, it provides a positive visual impact for the business district. Many squares throughout Cambridge have participated in this program with the City but until ECBA committed to sharing the expense it was not practiced in East Cambridge. These decorations help to define our business district. Making the area attractive helps to attract new businesses as well as encourages pedestrian foot traffic. The American Flags we added in 2016 reinforce this notion and the Winter Baskets carry our efforts through the winter months.

Additionally, the decoration along the street are appreciated by our residents that benefit from the visual improvements in the their neighborhood and for some out their front door along Cambridge Street.

Showing that we care about our surrounding encourages business owners to take special care of areas around their stores and promotes keeping Cambridge Street clean.

Finally, in a business district such as Cambridge Street that currently experiences gaps in retail activity, visual connections help pedestrians venture beyond where they may naturally stop exploring. Connecting pedestrians from Inman Square across Columbia/Webster Ave and towards East Cambridge is a good example of this connection that we hope to achieve.”

General Project Schedule

May 2017 | 36 Flower Baskets, 29 American Flags installed by the Public Works Department (DPW) in time for Memorial Day Weekend
Mid Summer 2017| 40 Holiday Baskets ordered
Early December| 40 Holiday Baskets installed by Cambridge Electrical Department and DPW


2. Fort agassiz annex


Non-Profit Organization 501(c)3

Maria LePage, primary contact

Project Location: Agassiz Baldwinn Community, 20 Sacramento Street

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“5 years ago, a group of middle school students enrolled in a workshop at the Maud Morgan Arts Center to design a play structure for Agassiz Baldwin Community backyard. Over the course of the workshop, a licensed architect guided them through the process. They met with the ABC Children’s Programs Director to understand the needs and restrictions and get feedback throughout the process. They designed and built a detailed, scaled model and architects created drawings from the model. Once funding was in place, ABC contracted to get the major structural components built by a carpenter and the students returned to finish building several components. Last but not least, “Fort Agassiz,” was presented to the community and is now used daily. 

In the last 5 years, our programs have grown, and we’ve had to get rid of some of the other features of our backyard as they fell into disrepair, leaving us with only one small play structure, which gets very overcrowded. With so many children and families using our backyard, we are now hoping to build the “Fort Agassiz Annex,” to expand the original structure to better meet the demand for this space. A new group of youth participated in a workshop recently and dreamt up creative design concepts. We would like to secure funding so they can reconvene to collaborate on final design, and then work together to build it with help from professionals. Both the process and the product of this project align with the CRA’s theme of “connections.” The youth designers and builders connect with peers, younger students, program staff, and professional architects and carpenters. Once the final product is complete, it becomes an inviting gathering and play space that enables countless connections to be made between hundreds of children and parents.”

General Project Schedule

April 2017 | Complete scaled model of the design created by the middle school students
May 2017  | Complete architectural drawings
June 2017 | Hire Contractor and Complete fundraising goal
August 2017 | Complete construction of the structure
September 2017 | Complete all structural inspections in preperation for the first day of school


3. Building pillar 1: Child & teen services


Non-Profit Organization 501(c)3

Christina Alexis, primary contact

Project Location: Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, 71 Cherry Street

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“Children, Black/African American and Hispanic/ Latino individuals experience poverty at nearly double the rate of the overall Cambridge population. The Port, where Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) is located, has higher concentrations of children and Hispanics/African Americans than most other neighborhoods as well as foreign-born individuals. One of the things that MFNH staff has observed is a major need for appropriate active play learning tools as a result of their learning challenges and adverse effects of trauma they have suffered.

The current reality is that the space at MFNH is not currently outfitted appropriately for the children we serve. Our proposed project is to support functional space design upgrades for our child-care program space to include three major areas:

-Life safety repairs, plumbing and electrical maintenance and repair

-Space redesign and soft demolition and rebuild

-Space redesigns and outfitting with appropriate child intervention infrastructure

Funds will be used to repair and improve the quality of the physical plant and provide appropriate resources and materials in the child care area. The goal is to have this project completed by December 2017. This project is one component of an agency-wide capital improvement project that is being implemented by MFNH to help us better serve our neighbors and the overall public in Cambridge by sustaining the agency’s historic presence in Cambridge.”

General Project Schedule

Summer 2017 | Obtain all permits for project implemntation
September - October 2017 | Plumbling and electrical maintenance repairs. Space redesign. Soft demolition and rebuild of redesigned space.
November - December 2017 | Completion of all renovations/upgrades



4. Port kiosk


Non-Profit Organization 501(c)3

Eryn Johnson, primary contact

Project Location: Corner of Windsor and School Street

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“The Port Kiosk is a shaded enclosure in the shape of a hand, brightly colored and with a stencil pattern inspired by photos of actual people from the Port neighborhood. Located in the curb bump out at Windsor and School Streets, the kiosk serves the community with useful information that people might need throughout their day. Standing 9 feet 7 inches tall, the Hand symbolizes the people of the Port and their shared values of community, friendship, and mutual help. A curved roof just touching the fingertips frames the shape while keeping off snow and rain, making a sheltered spot to pause and consult the kiosk or chat with a friend. The Port Kiosk, which has been designed by our Public Art Crew with support from artist Liz LaManche. The Kiosk was conceived through community meetings held in winter 2015/2016 and has been advised by the Port Public Art Leadership Group. The Kiosk will celebrate the recent name reclaiming of the neighborhood by featuring a new Port logo designed by Community Art Center (CAC) digital art students through a yearlong community process. The Port Kiosk is presented as part of Home Port, a multiyear initiative that uses pop up events, photojournalism, public art, and story collection, to strengthen the Port community. Home Port is guided by a group of neighborhood leaders, carried out by local youth and supported by a team of partners including the City of Cambridge, developers Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Boston Properties, and grassroots neighborhood groups.”

General Project Schedule

Summer 2017 |  Final design production
September - October 2017 |  Technology and architectural specs finalized. Present design at Community Meetings.
November - December 2017 | Issue RFP for contractor/fabricator  
January 2018 | Permitting and insurance finalized. 
February - March 2018 | Offsite fabrication of kiosk

April 2018 | Kiosk Installation

5. Building modernization project


Non-Profit Organization 501(c)3

Darrin Korte, primary contact

Project Location: Cambridge Community Center, 5 Callender Street

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“We are respectfully requesting $25,000 from the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority's Forward Fund to help purchase 35 iMac computers and two printers to replace our outdated equipment in our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) computer lab, Middle School Lab and staff offices, as well as ten iPads for our STEAM programming so that our children can learn to code on state of the art technology. In addition to the equipment, this project would include the labor and materials to create new computer stations and re-wire our computer labs.

At the Cambridge Community Center, we integrate STEAM programming because it aligns with our mission statement of empowering children and families in the Riverside community. Not only do the children we serve love our science and technology programs, such as coding and MinecraftEDU, we believe supplemental STEAM programming outside of the public school system is vital to ensure children are interested in these subjects in the future. Considering we serve a community that is at a socioeconomic disadvantage, we know that this is especially important in order to combat the poverty cycle.

In addition to improving our STEAM programs, we plan to open our updated computer lab to the public during the morning hours, Monday - Friday. Further, we will invite high school students to use the space during the evenings for homework or personal art projects that they are working on. We are one of the closest youth centers to Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, giving us a unique opportunity to be a valuable resource to the students there.”

*Forward Fund monies will be allocated for the infrastructure aspects of the proposed project.

General Project Schedule

Spring 2017 | Refurbish and rebuild new computer stations in STEAM Labs. Rewiere rebuilt STEAM LabsS
Summer 2017 | Install new computers in STEAM Labs. Ribbon cutting for opening of new STEAM LAbs


civic experimentation capital Grants

1. Tunnel of light


Non-Profit Organization 501(c)3

Douglas Brown, primary contacts

Project Location: Watertown-Cambridge Greenway Multi-Use Path

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“We intend to repurpose an abandoned rail tunnel for use as an outdoor, public performance space. The performance space will eliminate much of the setup cost associated with hosting large-scale, short-term audio-visual and performance projects. This space would provide turnkey performance infrastructure, including onsite sound, lighting, staging, and support equipment. This space would appeal to audio-visual artists, dance and theater performances, and acoustic and electronic music performances.

First, the project would inject life into a dirt and forgotten urban space, creating new life in a space that currently lacks any. Second, the project would provide new options for small performances that would otherwise struggle to find an affordable home in Cambridge.

Because this project seeks to reclaim and celebrate a historic urban space, it will be unlike any other performance spaces currently available in the City. And because the necessary infrastructure will be in place in advance, performers will be able to host an event with very little advance effort or cost.”

*Forward Fund monies will be allocated for the infrastructure aspects of the proposed project.

General Project Schedule

Spring - Summer 2017 |  Convene artist' working group. Facilitate community meetings and select final design in concert with CRA and the City. 
Fall 2017 |  Approve design. Complete permitting and contract an installer.
Winter 2017 | Tunnel lighting installation begins  
Spring 2018 | Tunnel installations completed. Opening ceremony and event.


2. wayfinder - connecting 2 the i.e. (innovation economy)


Non-Profit Organization 501(c)3

Michael Dawson, primary contact

Project Location: The Port, Kendall Square, Jill Browne-Rhone Park

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“We are proposing to create a student designed wayfinding signage and multimedia tour system that will connect youth, especially those residing in the Port, to Cambridge’s rich history and its thriving innovation economy. While the building-boom that is ongoing in Cambridge may be improving the city’s landscape, we have found that youth in the Port feel invisible and disconnected to that progress. By engaging local students in a wayfinding design project, we intend to connect them to the stories that have been and continue to develop around them and to showcase their own talents, hopes, and dreams. 

Innovators for Purpose will engage the students in a highly collaborative design process with the guidance of Daniel Solomon Koff (Principal of Solomon Office, Adjunct Professor at Olin College of Engineering, and alumni of Harvard Graduate School of Design, MDesS ‘15) as well as design interns from MIT and Harvard.

The project will promote local establishments by making their history visible to the public. And because the wayfinding system will be designed by local youth, it will connect them to this history. The creation of a tour from the perspective of local youth will flip the current paradigm where the students feel invisible in their own neighborhood and will use the growth of the city as a mechanism to draw people into their own lives, showcasing their untapped source as future designers, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs.”

General Project Schedule

Spring 2017 |  Design framework options for the signs. Create case studies for various sites.
Summer 2017 |  Determine shape and content of the signs with student collaboration.
Fall 2017 | Complete fabrication drawings and solicit bids. Select a fabricator.  
Winter 2017 | Tunnel installations completed. Opening ceremony and event.



3. moses youth center vertical garden


Community Organization

Carolyn Lewenberg, primary contact

Cambridge Art Center, Inc., 501(c)3 Fiscal Agent

Project Location: Moses Youth Center, 243 Harvard Street

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“A vertical garden at the Moses Community Center will provide aesthetic, ecological, and social benefit. The vertical garden will be designed and planted according to favorite community recipes and will also have pollinator habitat built into it. Systems will be co-created in community art-build workshops and community members will learn techniques at art build events that they may apply to make their own vertical garden systems at their homes. For those that missed the art-builds, we will create online tutorials and support as part of this project to empower people to create vertical garden systems at their homes. This project will demonstrate that food can be grown in small spaces in an affordable manner. Like verdant island oases in a sea of hardscape, these vertical gardens will be interfaces between nature, art, food and community in the city. Youth in the Boys to Men program will care for the vertical garden systems at the Moses Community Center. We envision that the process will be a grounding experience for people to connect with their natural and built surroundings in a new way, and start to see the potential of more urban agriculture. The goal is for this project is to develop and refine inexpensive and small scale vertical garden prototypes and resources to support the replication of them in other sites around the Port and beyond.

We are combining a return to the Earth mentality with an urban approach in a DIY spirit. Using a similar visual vocabulary as other architectural elements in the urban landscape, we are essentially creating “hotels” for herbs, vegetables, pollinators, and pollinator food. Repurposing shipping pallets and involving the community in making the systems will empower people that they can afford to do this on their own, and have the skills to do so as well.”

General Project Schedule

April - May 2017 |  Document Earth Day Inaugural Frankling Park Zoo Vertical Garden. Create how-to videos with Earth Day Footage. Develop curriculum with Moses Youth Center staff
May - June 2017 |  Develop designs and planting plans. Vertical garden prep work.
July 2017 | Oasis Art Build event event at Moses Youth Center. Install irrigation. Launch website for the vertical garden program.



4. Suitsculptures


Community Organization

Laura Zittrain, primary contact

Cambridge Arts Council Fund, Inc., 501(c)3 Fiscal Agent

Project Location: Third & Binney Civic Space

Quoted from the Forward Fund Application Form:

“The Suitsculptures are comprised of two distinct statues, occupiable by any body, of any ability: the standing sculpture will be sized to accommodate able-bodied adults, and the seated one will be sized to accommodate shorter adults, children, and most importantly, be wheelchair accessible. We believe in the principles of universal design: building an inclusive sculpture that is accessible to any Cambridge resident is foundational to our project.

To that extent, visitors will be able to “try on” the space suit simply by walking or wheeling into an opening in the back of the statue. From the front, it will appear as though the person is actually inside a spacesuit (see support materials). We literally want people to step inside the sculpture and step into an alternate history -- and imagine themselves reaching for the stars.

By relying on a speculative design approach, we ask the public to expand its imagination to consider what might have been -- and what might be -- in Kendall Square. We see the absence of NASA, and subsequent presence of many thriving biotech and tech companies, as evidence that East Cambridge bursts with opportunity. Our hope is that the Suitsculpture’s provocative reimagining empowers citizens to imagine limitless possibility for the future of our community -- and themselves.” 

General Project Schedule

Spring 2017 |  Archival research. Design phase, structual anaysis and mold design. Site planning and approval.
Summer 2017 |  Fabricate mold. Installation begins. Convene panel.