A recent article featured on cool space locator included a mention of our Flower Shop. They wrote:
Central Square is the historical commercial and governmental seat of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an inner-ring suburb of Boston. Cambridge lays just northwest of the City of Boston across the Charles River, and the first bridge to link the two cities was built in the 1700s. Central Square lay on the major route leading through Cambridge. By the late 19th century, the growth of industry, commerce, and the nearby Cambridgeport residential area led Central Square to grow in scale. Central Square became Cambridge’s seat of government and commerce. The entire area became a center for arriving immigrants.
Geographically speaking, Pittsburgh and Cambridge have different conceptions of “neighborhoods” and neighborhood boundaries. In Pittsburgh’s walkable communities, most neighborhoods include major commercial districts, like Lawrenceville’s Butler Street corridor, and Dormont’s West Liberty Avenue corridor. In Cambridge, an inner-ring suburb of Boston, neighborhoods are defined as residential districts, and major commercial districts often center and spread out from large intersections – squares – on the borders of these neighborhoods. Central Square is the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Western Avenue, Magazine Street, Prospect Street, and River Street. But when we speak of “Central Square” here, we’re referring to the commercial district and larger community around the Square proper. Although Central Square isn’t called a “neighborhood,” it is both a diverse community in itself and the center of a larger one.
The development of Boston’s metropolitan transportation network played a major part in shaping the current experience of the Square. The 1912 opening of the T, a light rail system, drew commerce toward downtown Boston and away from Central Square in Cambridge. Not long after, the introduction of the automobile allowed people to move farther into the metro area. Like many inner-ring suburbs in our region and across the country, Cambridge started to hollow out. Instead of reaching a regional market as it once did, Central Square businesses were serving a primarily local market. (Cambridge also includes campuses of MIT and Harvard.)
Today, as Central Square works to develop the assets of its business community, diversity has emerged as one of its most important values. There’s a presence of both new economy and old economy. Biotech firms such as Novartis and Draper Labs exist alongside smaller retail shops that reach a huge variety of audiences. The Square has seen some tenants stay for the long haul, like Central Square Florist, which first opened in 1929. Some national chains, like the Gap and Starbucks Coffee, have arrived, but they haven’t compromised the independent quality of the retail businesses. Teddy Shoes serves the general market for footwear, and it maintains a special selection of dance supplies. University Stationery, which has been in the Square since the 1940s, still offers unique variety and unmatched knowledge of stationery and office supplies. And because of continued immigration, ethnic shops and eateries still abound.
To keep the community pedestrian-friendly, the architecture and layout of the Square have undergone an historical throwback. During the 1990s, Massachusetts Avenue underwent a streetface improvement, which added benches, widened the sidewalks, and cut traffic lanes from four to two. Several new constructions promote the grid and walkability.
A Monday evening farmers market, to a visiting Pittsburgher, appropriately represented the mixing of past and present in Central Square. This farmers market is located in a parking lot just blocks away from a Red Line T-stop and a walkway lined with a mural, showing the influence of transportation and design on the Square. The market – its products and exchanges – represent the Square’s commerce. And the people are a microcosm of the community itself: working professionals, residents, immigrants, and travelers.
“The feeling of it comes from the fact that [Central Square] is very diverse but also very integrated,” said Marina Pevzner, executive director of the Central Square Business Association. The hallmark of this community is its mutual interdependence and connectedness.