|December 3, 1995
|140 Envision Future of Porter Square
At Dec. 2 Event
|Cambridge -- 140 residents and business owners from Cambridge and
Somerville gathered on December 2 for a community brainstorming event to envision a better
|The Envision Porter Square event -- held at the Cambridge
Masonic Temple -- was organized by the Porter Square Neighbors Association (PSNA) to gain
community input into the imminent redesign and renovation of the Porter Square Shopping
Representatives of the shopping centers owners approached the PSNA earlier this fall
indicating their desire to hear from the surrounding community before drawing up plans for
renovations, which could begin as early as next spring.
|John Civilinski -- who represents the shopping centers owners
as director of real estate planning and investment for Gravestar, Inc. -- acknowledged to
the audience on Dec. 2 that the shopping center looks tired and has lots of problems
and needs investment now. He assured Porter Square residents that while the shopping
centers owners intend to upgrade the site, they want it to remain a community
center; i.e. they do not want to convert it into a regional mall
|After a background presentation by Civilinski on the shopping
center, as well as presentations by Cambridge and Somerville officials on the surrounding
areas zoning and demographics, attendees split up into 11 work groups to brainstorm
about what they want in a redesigned shopping center and -- more broadly -- in an improved
Porter Square. PSNA president Paul Myers framed the overriding question as, How can we
make the Porter Square Shopping Center fit into the neighborhood? He emphasized that
the event was meant to generate as many ideas as possible without yet judging their
quality, feasibility, or popularity.
|Each group was provided a large-scale map of the shopping center on
which to draw ideas. Groups were also assigned facilitators to moderate the discussion,
collect all ideas, and then share those ideas with the full group at the end of the event.
|The brainstorming session provided dozens of proposals for making
the shopping center more attractive, more effecient for cars, and more friendly for
pedestrians. Many attendees expressed interest in new stores and services the shopping
center might provide. A lot of energy was also focused on ways to improve the intersection
of Massachusetts Ave. and Somerville Ave., and to make crossing those streets easier and
safer for pedestrians.
|All ideas generated at the event -- as well as provided by a survey
distributed to 2000 households in the Porter Square area -- are now being analyzed by the
PSNA to gain an understanding of what the surrounding community wants. The results will
then be given to the shopping centers redesign team, which has promised to provide
at least preliminary design concepts -- based on the community input -- at the January
meeting of the PSNA. The public will be kept informed as renovation plans move forward.
|The Porter Square Neighbors Association meets on the third Thursday
of every month. The next meeting is scheduled for December 21 from 7-9 pm at the
Metropolitan Baptist Church, 16 Beech Street, Cambridge.