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Block Party Initiative Triples Neighborhood Celebrations

Wednesday, December 13, 2023
  • Block parties have helped transform neighborhood streets and brought neighbors together. 

  • The City issued nearly $15,000 for block parties in 2023.

  • The program will continue in the summer of 2024.  


How do you build community, strengthen connections among neighbors, and showcase creativity to make a healthier—and more fun—Cambridge?  
Block parties, naturally.  

These gatherings help turn neighborhood streets into more convivial and playful public spaces. By bringing neighbors together, the City of Cambridge is fostering community connections and resiliency — helping us reconnect after the coronavirus pandemic and fostering mutual aid for the next time a problem arrives.  
With support from the City Council starting last spring, the Cambridge Public Health Department; Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department; Community Development Department; and Cambridge Arts came together to encourage block parties — especially on streets that haven’t hosted one in the past.  
The program, which will continue in the summer of 2024 and reflect feedback from the community, does the following: 

  • Offers $200 cash grants to reduce party costs. 
  • Eliminates the $25 block party permit fee. 
  • Provides free games and activities through the Play Streets program. 
  • Changes a signature requirement, with applicants now only needing to collect signatures in support of the party from 25 percent of households on the block (previously it was 75 percent). 
  • Shortens the approval process, with applications only needing to be submitted 14 days in advance of the party (previously it was 30 days). 
  • Makes it easier for residents to host a series of block parties: now that residents can now apply just once for block parties on multiple dates (such as the first Sunday of each month). 

The results? More than 75 organizers received $200 grants. Overall, more than $15,000 was issued for block parties in 2023 and residents hosted three times as many block parties in Cambridge during the summer of 2023 than in the previous year. 


“I went onto the cambridgema.gov website. I searched for ‘block parties.’ Boom, there it was. It was so easy. I filled out the application for the party, then [the City] contacted me. It was very seamless,” says Casey Wenz of Hancock Place.  “They made it really easy. Usually there’s a lot of process, so forget it,” Donna Erikson of Hancock Street says.  

“These kinds of gatherings, they’re very easy to access because they’re right in the neighborhood. You just walk there. … It really feels like community. You see lots of parents chatting. Even though I was volunteering, I met lots of parents that day,” says Nuria Jane Chimeno, co-president of the Friends of Morse School.  

“It aligned with what we’re trying to do every day with the coffee shop: reinvigorating public spaces and giving a place to convene and bring people together from all different groups. … Genuine community is something that is few and far between and we need to work together to reverse that trend,” says Henry Hoffstot, owner of Faro Café on Arrow Street.  

“The block party has been vital in cultivating community joy, connection, and a sense of belonging. We're deeply grateful for the city's support this year. Children and youth of the neighborhood loved the city's play kits, and the streamlined application process made it so much easier to apply for a permit. The funding support also enabled us to purchase plates and cutlery so that we could enjoy a neighborhood potluck. It was so special to enjoy the foods that neighbors prepared and shared.”  

Block Party - kids playing on the street
" “I’m pretty new here and with COVID I hardly know the people in our neighborhood. Ours was kind of billed as a meet and greet. Everybody made a very concerted effort to introduce themselves to everyone. Now I can put names and faces to people in the neighborhood. I think it’s really great to feel connected to our neighbors,” says Mary Reynolds of Hancock Street. "
" “Several other neighborhoods have called asking if they can organize block parties too. The block party has been the glue that holds our neighborhood together. Especially through and after the pandemic, authentic connection and a sense of belonging have been so meaningful,” says Barbara Best of Antrim Street, where residents held their 46th annual block party in 2023.  "
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