Pursuant to the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance and M.G.L. c. 40A, the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) hears and decides appeals cases, applications for special permits, and appeals or petitions for variances including variances for use, with respect to particular land or structures.

Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA)

The Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) was enacted by the Cambridge City Council in 2014, and is a key step to reduce Cambridge's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The ordinance requires owners of larger buildings to track and report annual energy use to the City and publicly disclose the data. Ordinance text can be found here.

Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO)

Building Improvement District (BID)

A business improvement district is a defined area within which businesses are required to pay an additional tax in order to fund projects within the district's boundaries. These districts typically fund services such as cleaning streets, providing security, making capital improvements, construction of pedestrian and streetscape enhancements, and marketing the area. The services provided by BIDs are supplemental to those already provided by the municipality.

Business Improvement District (BID)

A special district in which all property owners pay additional fees, usually assessed based on property value, towards the maintenance of that district above and beyond what the city and state contribute. Extra services may include street cleaning, marketing, events, capital improvements, beautification, and security. At least 51% of the property owners with 61% of the assessed value must agree to form a district.

A former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination.


Chapter 121 B

Urban renewal is a strategy for redeveloping and revitalizing substandard, decadent and blighted open areas for residential, commercial, industrial, business, governmental, recreational, educational, hospital or other uses.  Under M.G.L. Chapter 121B municipalities, through their urban renewal agencies, are authorized to undertake a wide range of public actions to address these conditions and to create the environment needed to attract and support private development and promote sound growth in designated neighborhoods.  DHCD’s Division of Community Services administers the urban renewal program, including assisting municipalities to establish and strengthen urban renewal agencies, and providing assistance and resources to prepare and implement urban renewal plans.

CIC, formerly known as Cambridge Innovation Center, is a co-working and office space center that started in 1999 in One Broadway. CIC now has branches in a number of major cities in the United States, and is expanding abroad. In 2018 CIC will expand their co-working space into 255 Main Street.


The Community Development Department is the planning agency for the City of Cambridge. The mission of the Community Development Department (CDD) is to enhance the character and diversity of the city’s neighborhoods and support sustainable economic growth that expands opportunities for residents, enables a high quality of life within the community, and contributes to a healthy environment.

Community Development Department (CDD)

A covenant is a promise in a written contract or a deed. There are different types of covenants, such as a promise agreeing to joint use of an easement for access to a property, or mutual covenants which are promises to respect certain rules of conduct or restrictions on use of a property. Covenants which run with the land, such as permanent easement of access or restrictions on use, are binding on future owners of the property. Covenants can be concurrent (mutual promises to be performed at the same time), dependent (one promise need be performed if the other party performs his/hers), or independent (a promise to be honored without reference to any other promise).


The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is a Massachusetts state department that through its community and business partners, provides affordable housing options, financial assistance, and other support to Massachusetts communities.  DHCD oversee different types of assistance and funding for consumers, businesses, and non-profit partners.

DHCD’s Division of Community Services administers the urban renewal program and provides assistance and resources to prepare and implement urban renewal plans, and oversees Redevelopment Authorities like the CRA.

Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)

A development agreement is a contractual obligation between the CRA and a designated development entity that maps out a vision and plan for the development of an area of land. The agreement provides assurances to the CRA and developer entity, commits resources, and establishes mechanisms to address either party’s failure to live up to its responsibilities agreed upon in the development agreement. 

Development Agreement

A power of the CRA derived from Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 121B, Section 46(f) to create a plan for a specific parcel to enable development outside of an urban renewal area.

Demonstration Project

The CRA has design review authority of development projects including mixed-use residential and commercial projects, public and private open spaces and other permanent improvements made in the MXD District of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan. Project design review consists of three distinct components, approval of the Infill Development Concept Plan (IDCP), Schematic Design approval and Building Design Review, which consists of two parts, first Design Development Documents approval and Construction Document approval.

Design Review

The DRDAP document sets forth the procedures for design submittals of the plans and specifications for specific developments within the MXD District of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan (KSURP) in the City of Cambridge, and the review and consideration of the developments for approval.

Design Review and Document Approval Procedures (DRDAP)

Easements are a right given to another person or entity to trespass upon or use land owned by somebody else. Easements can be used for roads, pedestrian access or given to utility companies for the right to bury cables or access utility lines. Easements run with the land but can also expire after a certain time period.


In 1999-2001, a planning effort was undertaken by a committee of residents, representatives of institutions and businesses, and City staff working with a team of planning consultants to create a vision for future development in the eastern portion of Cambridge. The study area included parts of Kendall Square, the North Point area near Lechmere, the East Cambridge residential neighborhood and parts of the Wellington-Harrington and Area Four neighborhoods.

The planning process resulted in goals for future economic development, housing, transportation, urban design and open space in those areas, and led to a rezoning of certain districts (adopted by the City Council in 2001) and the establishment of a set of urban design guidelines to inform future project review.

East Cambridge Planning Study (ECaPS)

An Environmental Impact Report is a written record of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) that identifies and examines the likely environmental effects of the continuing operations of an existing facility or those of a proposed project, and proposes measures to avoid, mitigate, or offset them. In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office reviews EIRs and issues a certificate with a scope for a Single Environmental Impact Review (SEIR), Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) or a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

The CRA's Forward Fund is a micro-grant program intended to support specific physical improvement projects that better Cambridge's built environment for the benefit of all the city's residents, workers, and visitors.

Forward Fund

The Foundry Advisory Committee is a group of Cambridge residents, who play an advisory role to the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, to ensure that the Foundry's redevelopment and ongoing operation remains consistent with the Vision and Objectives established in the Demonstration Plan. Members of the Foundry Advisory Committee are appointed by the City Manager.

Foundry Advisory Committee (FAC)

The floor area ratio (FAR) is the relationship between the total amount of usable floor area that a building has, or has been permitted for, and the total area of the lot on which the building stands. This ratio is determined by dividing the total, or gross, floor area of the building by the gross area of the lot.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR)

A technology that uses hardware and software to collect, analyze, display and store geographically referenced information in maps, tables, 3-D displays, and other formats. 

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Galaxy Park, once known as Point Park is located in the busy meeting point of Main Street and Broadway in the heart of Kendall Square. The park contains the iconic The Galaxy Earth Sphere sculpture and fountain, and was updated in 2016 to include new modern benches, plantings, and radial granite and concrete paving containing luminous smooth blue glass aggregate.

Galaxy Park

Gross floor area is the total floor area inside the building envelope, including the external walls, and excluding the roof. Definitions of GFA vary around the world, but in Cambridge GFA includes: (a) roofed porches and balconies whether enclosed or unclosed; (b) unroofed porches and balconies above third floor, with the exception of porch and balcony spaces associated with Functional Green Roof Area (c) elevator shafts and stairwells on each floor (d) attic space, whether finished or unfinished, within the area of a horizontal plane that is five (5) feet above the attic floor and which touches the side walls and/or the underside of the roof rafters (e) interior balconies, mezzanines, and penthouses (f) area of parking facilities in structures and (g) any accessory parking spaces not in above ground structures if in excess of the maximum number permitted on the premises.

Gross Floor Area (GFA)

Grand Junction Park is located at the corner of Main and Galileo, an intersection with a significant amount of foot traffic. The CRA redesign the park in 2016, and includes a 14-foot wide shared use path the length of Galileo Way, 35 new trees, rose gardens, comfortable seating areas with Adirondack chairs and tables along a meandering porous pavement walking path that has a birds eye view of the intersection. It also has bike racks, a drinking fountain with a water bottle filler and dog bowl, a new fence along the length of the property and an arrangement of granite block benches in a lush lawn area.

Grand Junction Park

The Grand Junction Trail or Greenway is proposed to be a multi-use path running alongside the existing tracks in the Grand Junction corridor from the Boston University Bridge to Somerville. The desired width of the path is 14’ with 2’ buffers (a total of 18'). It will provide a continuous pathway for residents, schoolchildren, workers and visitors to stroll, jog, or bike along a linear park connecting several neighborhoods with each other, with commercial areas, and with regional resources such as the Charles River.

In 2016, the first segment of the path was constructed as part of the Grand Junction Park, by the CRA. The second segment is being designed as part of the Binney Street Park and is expected to be constructed in 2019. The City of Cambridge has also allocated $10 million in funding to design and construct the northern portion of the path to the Somerville line. In 2017, MIT also committed $8.5 million and the land to design and construct the path on MIT-owned portions of the rail right-of-way.

Grand Junction Trail

The IDCP is a concept plan required to be created and approved by the CRA and City, as a result of the major KSURP Amendment 10 passed by the CRA Board and City Council in December of 2015. An Infill Development Concept plan details the urban design, circulation, and open space of the new development in the MXD District.

Infill Development Concept Plan (IDCP)

Established in 1998 to promote the production of affordable housing in Cambridge. In April 2017, the City Council unanimously passed an amendment to the Inclusionary Housing Zoning Ordinance, requiring that market-rate developments reserve 20% of the floor area for affordable units.

Inclusionary Zoning

Innovation Space is a requirement in Article 14 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance which governs the area of the MXD District in Kendall Square. As defined in the zoning language, innovation space will be commercial areas that have durations of lease agreements (or other similar occupancy agreements) with individual office tenants shall be for periods of approximately one 1 month. No single business entity may occupy more than 10% of the entire Innovation Space provided in the MXD District, and the average size of private office suites may not exceed 200 s.f. of GFA. The space will include shared resources such as co-working areas, conference space, classroom space, office equipment, showroom, shop or lab equipment, storage, circulation, supplies and kitchens. Individual entities occupying the space may include small businesses, incubators, small research laboratories, office space for investors and entrepreneurs, facilities for teaching and for theoretical, basic and applied research, produce development and testing and prototype fabrication or production of experimental products.

Innovation Space

A City of Cambridge department which administers the Cambridge Zoning Code and the State Building Code and issues all building, use, and occupancy permits. If a project requires development review under Article 80, ISD will not issue a permit until the CRA and the Zoning Commission (if necessary) have completed the required review and the CRA has certified that the project described in the permit application is consistent with the project approved through development review. 

Inspectional Services Department (ISD)

In 2011 - 2012, the City of Cambridge conducted a comprehensive planning study to develop a vision for Central Square, Kendall Square, and the area South of Main Street (including the Osborn Triangle) connecting the two squares. See study area.

The K2C2 Study was guided by two committees comprising diverse members including neighborhood residents, property owners, and representatives of businesses and institutions, which were appointed by the City Manager.  Each committee worked for over a year and had over twenty meetings which were open to everyone and included a public comment period, a series of public meetings, workshops, charrettes, and Mondays-in-the-Square were held to solicit input from the broader community.  See the reports below:

Kendall Square Central Square Planning Study (K2C2)

The KSA was started by Kendall community leaders in 2009 to discuss the development of Kendall Square and collaborate on ideas about how to improve, promote, and protect the area. The KSA today seeks to build partnerships among local businesses and employees, host events, advocate for public policy issues, and tell Kendall's story of transformation from an industrial center to a global innovation hub.

Kendall Square Association (KSA)

The KSMTF takes a comprehensive look at mobility issues in Kendall Square, and includes representatives from the City of Cambridge, local institutions, private organizations, and other key stakeholders. The existing mobility issues of the area, coupled with planned growth in Kendall Square and East Cambridge, has created a need to develop a transportation strategy to address local and regional mobility needs. The task force produced a report outlining policy and project recommendations focused primarily on public transit and shuttles over the short, medium, and longer term time frames. See final report.

Kendall Square Mobility Task Force (KSMTF)

A mechanism and governance structure established by the City of Cambridge, MassDOT, the MBTA, Boston Properties and the CRA, for funding public transit to serve the growing Kendall Square district. KSTEP grew out of the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) review process for the amendment of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan (KSURP). It is expected that the projects which will receive investment from KSTEP will be informed by the Kendall Square Mobility Task Force final report. See KSTEP MOU.

Kendall Square Transit Enhancement Program (KSTEP)

Since the 1960's the KSURP outlines the redevelopment objectives of the designated area (see map here), and guides the CRA in the transformation of Kendall Square, using the tools of a redevelopment authority granted through the Massachusetts State Legislature's Chapter 121B. The KSURP plan was first approved in 1965 by the CRA Board, Cambridge City Council and Massachusetts's Department of Housing and Community Development.

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan (KSURP)

Since 1965, the KSURP plan has been amended a number of times. The most recent major amendment to the plan was passed on December 21st, 2015. The KSURP Amendement 10 provides for 4 million square feet of mixed-use development, accommodating office and biotech labs, hotel, residential, retail and open space.

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan Amendments

An agreement with the CRA that governs the transfer and use of CRA owned parcels; typically recorded with the deed.

Land Disposition Agreement

LEED is an ecology-oriented building certification program run under the auspices of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

A license agreement is a legal contract between two parties, known as the licensor and the licensee. In a typical license agreement at the CRA, the licensor (CRA) grants the licensee the right to produce and sell goods or use the CRA's land.

License Agreement

Loughrey Walkway is a pedestrian path owned by the CRA that connects Broadway and Binney Street. The 800-foot-long concrete path will be closed for renovation from June 18th, 2018 to October 1st, 2018 for reconstruction. Boston Properties is making these improvements as part of the Infill Development Concept Plan approved in January of 2017, and includes a separated bicycle path, new concrete walkways, refurbished street lights and new furniture and signage.

Loughrey Walkway (6th Street Walkway)

The state agency responsible for ensuring clean air and water, the safe management of toxics and hazards, the recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, the timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources. 

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act requires a review process that provides meaningful opportunities for public review of potential environmental impacts of certain projects for which certain actions by state agencies are required. It requires state agencies to study the environmental impacts of projects requiring state permitting, financial assistance or land disposition, and to use all feasible measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate damage to the environment or, to the extent damage to the environment cannot be avoided, to minimize and mitigate damage to the environment to the maximum extent practicable.

Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA)

A Minority Business Enterprise is an entity that is at least 51% owned and/or controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual as described by Title X of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 7601 note), and Public Law 102- 389 (42 U.S.C. 4370d), respectively

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE)

The MXD District is the zoning district of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan (KSURP). As noted in the zoning language, the purpose of the MXD is to allow a diversity of land uses in close proximity, to promote a balance of land uses, to facilitate development proposals responsive to current and future market conditions, to facilitate integrated physical design, and to encourage interaction among activities located within the district.

Mixed Use District (MXD)

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is a nonbinding agreement between two or more parties outlining the terms and details of an understanding, including each parties' requirements and responsibilities. An MOU is often the first stage in the formation of a formal contract.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

A network of transportation options typically including transit, pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular travel. 


Letter from an entity or organization to a contractor, consultant or vendor stating the date they can begin work subject to the conditions of the contract.

Notice to Proceed (NTP)

A Notice of Project Change is needed if there is any material change to a project needing approval or review by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office. A Notice of Project Change is also needed if there has been a lapse of time since the issuance of the Environmental Notification Form (ENF) Certificate, which initiates MEPA's review of a project.

Notice of Project Change (NPC)

Parcel 6 is located on the corner of Third Street and Binney Street and is owned by the CRA. Beginning in 2015, the CRA has programmed and repurposed the space into a public civic area with Food Trucks, seating, public art displays, a Bluebike station, raised Green City Grower garden boxes and a little free library.

Parcel 6

The PTDM Ordinance is a national model for improving mobility and access, reducing congestion and air pollution, and increasing safety by promoting walking, bicycling, public transit, and other sustainable modes. The ordinance was adopted in Cambridge 1998 and made permanent in 2006. Participation is triggered when an owner of non-residential property proposes to add parking above the registered number.

Parking Transportation Demand Management (PTDM)

Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of shared use spaces. More than just designing spaces, placemaking brings together diverse people (including professionals, elected officials, residents, and businesses) to improve a community’s cultural, economic, social and ecological situation. 


The term Planned Unit Development (PUD) is used to describe a type of development and regulatory process that permits a developer to meet overall community density and land use goals without being bound by existing zoning requirements. They permit coordination of public and private development to implement larger urban design plans for those areas. Nine PUDs have been established in Cambridge to encourage new buildings in the city's major revitalization areas such as East Cambridge, Kendall Square and Alewife.

Planned Unit Development (PUD)

The Cambridge Planning Board reviews plans and proposals under the Special Permit provisions of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance and Chapter 40A of the Massachusetts General Laws, proposes or reviews zoning amendments, makes recommendations to the City Council about proposed revisions to the Zoning Ordinance, and engages in general planning efforts to improve the physical environment of the City.

Planning Board

Privately owned public spaces (sometimes referred to as POPS) are a type of land area that while privately owned, have been set aside for public benefit through land-use restriction, development agreements or zoning requirements.  

Privately Owned Public Space (POPS)

The RFI is a solicitation document used to obtain general information about products, services, or suppliers. The RFI process may help in the decision making process by developing a well-conceived solicitation document (RFP, RFQ) and clarifying the competitive requirements.

Request for Information (RFI)

A document issued by the CRA when it requires goods or services from an outside contractor. The RFP outlines the scope of work required in detail. Generally, RFP responses (or "bids") are reviewed by committee, and a shortlist of proponents are invited to the CRA to interview before a final proponent is selected. 

Request for Proposals (RFP)

A preliminary document issued by the CRA when it requires goods or services from an outside consultant or contractor. An RFQ describes the type of qualifications for which the CRA requires expertise, and invites proponents to submit information about their experience. An RFQ may be used to narrow the pool of proponents for a subsequent RFP.

Request for Qualifications (RFQ)

New construction on a site that has pre-existing uses. Variations of redevelopment include urban infill on vacant parcels that have no existing activity but were previously developed, especially on brownfield land, construction with a denser land usage or adaptive reuse, where older structures are converted for improved current market use, such as The Foundry Building.


Rogers Block, now Technology Square was a CRA redevelopment project that begin in 1957. Rogers Block was a 4.5 acre block occupied by a large wooden tenement building owned by the Rogers Family Trust, located on Main Street just west of Grand Junction Railroad.  In 1957 the CRA acquired the land, demolished the existing buildings and placed the property on the market. In 1959, MIT in partnership with Cabot Cabot and Forbes proposed the development of Technology Square. The CRA agreed to the sale of the Rogers Block land to the new Technology Square entity. The first Technology Square building was completed in 1962, and over time other buildings were added largely for the Polaroid Company. By 1975, half of the project's full development potential was in place.

Rogers Block

The Cambridge Zoning Ordinance describes when a special permit is required. A special permit is required where a particular use is permitted but only after certain conditions are met. The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is the authority that holds public hearings and decides whether to grant or deny a special permit. The BZA also hears appeals of zoning related decisions made by the Commissioner of Inspectional Services (Superintendent of Buildings). It should be noted that Planning Board is also a hearing authority for certain special permit matters as defined in the Zoning Ordinance. Information concerning Planning Board matters can be obtained by contacting the Community Development Department.

Special Permit

STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) as access points to guide student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who engage in experiential learning, can problem-solve, can work collaboratively, and work creatively.


Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) is a voluntary, incentive based program that allows landowners to sell development rights from their land to a developer or other interested party who then can use these rights to increase the density of development at another designated location.

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)

TOD is a type of urban development that maximizes the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transport.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD)

Cambridge uses Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies to encourage changes in travel behavior to allow the city and the economy to grow in accordance with our environmental and livability goals.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM)

A federal government funding program that began with the passage of the Housing Act of 1949.  Designed to create housing and promote economic development within the nation’s rapidly deteriorating inner cities, Urban Renewal was introduced to Boston in the 1950s and 1960s. The Urban Renewal program allows the CRA certain tools to catalyze development within an Urban Renewal area such as eminent domain, zoning controls, housing affordability restrictions, federal and state funding and the opportunity to develop demonstration projects to enhance these neighborhoods.

Urban Renewal

A variance is required if the proposed use or development is prohibited by the Ordinance. The Zoning Ordinance describes when a variance is required. A variance is required when the action desired violates the dimensional requirements or use provisions of the Zoning Ordinance. The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is the authority that holds public hearings and decides whether to grant or deny a variance. The BZA also hears appeals of zoning related decisions made by the Commissioner of Inspectional Services (Superintendent of Buildings).


On March 21st, 2016, the Cambridge City Council unanimously adopted Vision Zero, a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. Vision Zero focuses on identifying the steps necessary to meet the goal of zero fatalities and severe injuries and creating the collaborative framework needed to meet the goal.

Vision Zero

The Volpe Center is the U.S. DOT National Transportation Systems Center, who's mission is to advance transportation innovation for the public good. The Volpe Center currently sits on a 14 acre parcel of land in the heart of Kendall Square. In 2017, MIT signed an agreement with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to redevelop the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, with aims of turning the federally owned 14-acre parcel in Kendall Square into a more vibrant mixed-use site that will benefit MIT’s mission and the Cambridge community.

Volpe Center

Wayfinding refers to information systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space. In urban settings, wayfinding specialists develop signage and information systems to help people develop “mental maps” of the terrain and simplify their routes to the extent possible.


A neighborhood in Cambridge bounded by Somerville, Hampshire Street, Broadway and the Grand Junction Railroad Tracks. In 1963 the CRA and Cambridge City Council designated the area to be an Urban Renewal Zone, and at a time when grassroots citizen participation in community planning and development was rare, appointed a Wellington-Harrington Citizens committee who directly influenced all rehabilitation and new development activities in the neighborhood. As part of the Urban Renewal Plan, the CRA rezoned large areas of land, eliminated non-conforming uses, improved the street systems, created 8 public open spaces and playground areas and built a number of housing projects. The CRA also established Just-A-Start Corporation, a neighborhood based non-profit corporation funded by the Authority.


A Women’s Business Enterprise is an entity that is at least 51% owned and/or controlled by women (under the 10% and 8% statutes).

Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE)

A tool used by the City to dictate the allowed shape, density, and use of development in a given area. Cambridge's Zoning Ordinance incorporates a written code (describing setbacks, heights, allowed uses, densities, etc.) and maps which indicate which geographic areas are subject to which zoning guidelines.


Map documents which correspond with Cambridge's written Zoning Ordinance to indicate which zoning requirements apply to which geographic area.

Zoning Map