Harvard Square

Harvard Square at night
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About Harvard Square

Home to Harvard University, this square is an international destination, mixing history and learning with contemporary arts and entertainment. A unique blend of restaurants, shops and cultural offerings draws residents, students, professionals and visitors. With approximately 900,000 square feet of retail space, Harvard Square functions as a regional center for shopping in an urban, pedestrian-friendly context.

The character of Harvard Square reflects three and a half centuries of growth and change. At the center is Harvard Square Station, one of the busiest on the Red Line with bus links both underground near the trains, and along Massachusetts Avenue next to Harvard Yard and the Cambridge Common. George Washington massed the troops on Cambridge Common and had his headquarters in Massachusetts Hall in the Yard—our nation’s history reverberates throughout the Square.

The Church Street edge of the Square, closest to the Common and the Old Cambridge Burying ground, features the Harvard Square Cinema, and leads to Brattle Street with its mix of shopping, the Harvard Extension School headquarters, the American Repertory Theater, and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.

Brattle Street going eastwards meets Eliot Street and Mt. Auburn Street at the One Brattle Square project developed in the 1980s atop the bus tunnel that connects to the underground MBTA station. Southwards towards the Charles River from Brattle Square is Charles Square, a mixed-use project, also developed in the 1980s. This project is built on the site of the former “car barns” where the Red Line trains used to serviced after they came above ground when Harvard Station was the end of the line—this site became available for development after the extension of the Red Line in the early 1980s.

At Mt. Auburn Street and JFK Street is the historic Winthrop Square, which was one of the very first open air markets in the pre-Revolutionary era—now, it is a well-used open space surrounded by a lively mix of cafes, restaurants, other retail, housing, and institutional uses.

Further east along Mt. Auburn is the area known as the Gold Coast, the name being derived from the several clubs developed for Harvard students in the early twentieth century. Continuing a loop back to Massachusetts Avenue at its intersection with Harvard and Quincy Streets, one finds Quincy Square, an open space developed by the City in the late 1990s. The Inn at Harvard Square is at the eastern end, retail uses are along the south side of Mass Ave, and Harvard Yard is to the north.

Harvard Square Resources

Harvard Square Market Profile (2013)Harvard Square Commericial District Locus Map

Harvard Square Conservation District  

Harvard Square Business Association

Area Map of Harvard Square Commercial District

Harvard Square Advisory Committee

Healthy Harvard Square Initiative (2006)

Harvard Square Projects & Documents

Draft Harvard Square Development Guidelines. The Draft Harvard Square Development Guidelines are intended to help guide future incremental growth and change in the Harvard Square Overlay District, both as new buildings are constructed and old buildings are adapted and changed to accommodate new uses and changing fashions.

Harvard Square Bike Ban Area (2012)

Lower Massachusetts Avenue Study

Harvard Square Infrastructure Updates

Cambridge Common Project (active)

Harvard Square Improvements Project  (completed) 

For More Information

For more economic development information and activity on Harvard Square, please contact Pardis Saffari, psaffari@cambridgema.gov, 617/349-4654.

For more information on community planning activity in Harvard Square, please contact rboothe@cambridgema.gov, at 617/349-4646.