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Citywide Urban Design Guidelines

We are working on a set of citywide urban design guidelines to meet our vision for a beautiful, sustainable, and equitable Cambridge. These guidelines will be used by the Planning Board and City staff to review major development projects. Landowners, developers, and their architects, will be required to use the guidelines when they design projects. City departments will also use the guidelines when considering new street, sidewalk, and open space projects.

The guidelines will include design recommendations for spaces such as: 

  • Parks and Plazas
  • Buildings 
  • Sidewalks 
  • Storefronts 

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Get Involved

What do you like about the look and feel of your favorite places? Please take 5-10 minutes to share your ideas in our online survey

CDD is looking for community feedback on the overall direction of the Citywide Urban Design Guidelines, which are currently being prepared. The Design Guidelines will be used by landowners, developers, architects, and City staff when designing and reviewing major projects. The survey will be available online until July 31, 2023.  

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The Process

A graphic showing the project schedule. The process begins in September 2022 with Info Gathering & Analysis, and ends in December 2023 with Citywide Guidelines and Public Realm Design Manual. 

What Are Urban Design Guidelines and Why Are They Important? 

Urban design guidelines help shape how buildings, streets, parks and other open spaces look and feel.  

The look and feel of city spaces has an enormous impact on our quality of life. A well-designed space can make you feel happy, welcome, and comfortable. A poorly designed space can make you feel unwelcome and uncomfortable.  

Design guidelines are important because they help define how the city should be built and arranged to create a positive experience for everyone. Creating places that look right and feel right helps make Cambridge a great place to live, work, visit, and learn.  

Why "Citywide" Urban Design Guidelines?

Cambridge already has citywide urban design objectives, and some neighborhood and area-specific guidelines. 

This Citywide Urban Design Guidelines project will build off this previous work by: 

  • updating the existing citywide objectives, and 
  • creating guidelines for areas that do not have them yet.  

We will include lessons learned and goals from City plans and studies, like Envision Cambridge and Resilient Cambridge Plan. We will also consider current best practices for sustainability and resilience, equity, and design.  

Community engagement and feedback will help to develop and improve the content of the guidelines. Your ideas, knowledge, and input will help create a Cambridge that looks and feels right for us all.  

The new Citywide Urban Design Guidelines will set a high standard for future development. They will help us continue to create buildings, public places and environments that give Cambridge its unique character and make our city enjoyable and livable for everyone. 


The City of Cambridge has included urban design in planning projects as far back as the 1970's.

This earlier work included general recommendations for: 

  • The design of new buildings 
  • The locations of parks, plazas, and other open spaces 
  • Encouraging transit use, walking and bicycling 
  • Suggestions for new housing  

Some past plans that included design recommendations are: 

Recent projects have included specific urban design guidelines for many of the City’s evolving neighborhoods. Examples of such guidelines include:  

  • The arrangement and organization of buildings and neighborhoods 
  • Requiring storefronts to be transparent and interesting 
  • Using high quality and durable materials 
  • Designing parks to be safe and pleasant

Some recent design guidelines projects are: 

Coming Up


For information on this project please email Suzannah Bigolin sbigolin@cambridgema.gov or call 617-349-4600.

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