Retail Land Use Initiative

Inman Square

The goal of the Retail Land Use Initiative is to revise the way in which retail establishments are categorized in the Zoning Ordinance to provide more consistent and predictable regulation of retail uses in the city. This project also fulfills recommendations made in the Retail Strategic Plan and Envision Cambridge around helping reduce regulatory barriers for small businesses.  

Objectives of this initiative include: provide consistent and understandable definitions for all retail uses, define retail uses that are not currently listed, revise use and parking regulations based on new definitions, and consider other specific changes where appropriate. 


Community Development Department staff have had a series of ongoing discussions to gather feedback, including outreach to business associations, an online survey to businesses, and meetings with the City Council’s Economic Development and University Relations Committee. Staff have also researched past Board of Zoning Appeal (BZA) cases to identify typical zoning issues for small businesses.

July 30, 2020

The Economic Development and University Relations Committee will conduct a public hearing for the purpose of receiving an update on the Retail Land Use Initiative and Retail Table of Land Use update.

See additional meeting information.

February 13, 2019

The Economic Development and University Relations Committee conducted a public hearing to discuss updates from the Retail Strategy Plan.

Location: City Hall Sullivan Chamber, 795 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02139
Time: 12:00 p.m.

Additional information and remote viewing of the meeting is available through the City's Open Meeting Portal

Community Development Department (CDD) engaged with planning consulting firm Community Opportunity Group, Inc. to develop the Commercial Land Use Classification Study, providing recommendations to the City on ways to update, consolidate, and clarify commercial classifications in the Zoning Ordinance.

In 2017, the City’s Retail Strategic Plan consultant recommended that the City incorporate recommendations from the Classification Study to allow for more flexible and new retail uses, and as a way to make Cambridge more supportive and friendly environment for small businesses and to reduce regulatory barriers for entrepreneurs.

The goal of the Retail Land Use Initiative zoning change is to target retail uses in the commercial section of the current table of uses in the Cambridge zoning ordinance in order to fulfill the Retail Strategic Plan and Commercial Land Use Classification Study recommendations.

Jeff Roberts, Zoning and Development Director, 617/349-4639, or jroberts@cambridgema.gov

Pardis Saffari, Senior Economic Development Manager, 617/349-4654 or psaffari@cambridgema.gov