Gather Around: Public Patios Enliven Inman Square


5/20/2022

tables and chairs on blue painted pavement on an urban street surrounded by plantings

Last summer, the City of Cambridge created two public patios in the heart of Inman Square, giving visitors an inviting space to eat, drink, or simply hang out. What started as a few tables and chairs inside a wall of jersey barriers has flourished into a pair of bright community spaces with flower boxes, public art, and little free craft supply libraries. 

The two patios on Cambridge Street got a refresh earlier this week with a new coat of paint and plantings. In light of the positive community feedback about the patios, the City is exploring opportunities to incorporate more gathering spaces along Cambridge Street and in other areas throughout the city.

“To meet the evolving needs of our community, Cambridge is seeking innovative ways to reimagine how we use public spaces,” said City Manager Louis DePasquale. “Setting up these public patios has been a simple and cost-effective way to offer our community a vibrant and safe place to gather while supporting our local businesses.”

The City collaborated with the East Cambridge Business Association and nearby businesses to create the patios which offer a welcoming public seating area open to everyone. 

“The addition of the public patios has been the highlight of our year,” said Shelley Barandes, owner of Albertine Press. “Every day we see neighbors making use of the space. The little free craft supply libraries have been a great hit, and we love that we're supporting creative exploration that is accessible to everyone.”

These pop-up shared spaces are part of the Community Development Department’s Public Space Lab initiative which aims to reimagine and enliven public spaces while fostering collaboration and creativity. The patios have been a welcome addition to the area for both businesses and patrons, and the City is working to identify additional locations for them.

“It’s been wonderful to see the community’s positive response to the public patios,” said Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development. “The Public Space Lab takes a collaborative, build-as-you go approach to enhancing public space. It speaks to Cambridge’s creative and innovative spirit, and we can’t wait to see what other delightful and exciting spaces emerge as we work together.”

The Cambridge Public Space Lab is a testing ground for intentional community building. This new initiative seeks to cultivate inclusive and joyful public spaces, using a spirit of partnership, experimentation, and collective learning. Other projects of the Public Space Lab have included CloudHouse, a temporary shade pavilion Greene-Rose Heritage Park to mitigate impacts of extreme heat, and Palmer Street–an enhanced alley in Harvard Square which now features new tables and chairs, playful magnetic poetry boards, and a public piano.

For more information, visit www.cambridgema.gov/publicspacelab.