The Ebb and Flow of Porter Square

Devon Keeley's picture

Where Porter Square Business have been, where they are Today, and what the Future Holds

While it might not get as much foot traffic as the neighboring Harvard Square, Porter Square is home to a variety of shops and restaurants and offers a great deal of promise for future revenue.

Now a part of Lesley University, University Hall at 1815 Massachusetts Ave., was once a Sears from 1985 to 1991 but now houses a variety of shops and dining opportunities. A Work Out World inhabited the lower level of the building until May 2014, and on Jan. 31 of this year Planet Fitness filled the vacant 15,000-foot-space.

The Rock’n Fitness at Porter Square Galleria that Work Out World formed a partnership with upon its closing also recently shut down in fall 2017 after a pipe burst.

Also new to the Shops at Porter are Shaking Crab, a restaurant that took the place of Tavern in the Square, and All Eye Care, an optometrist and eyewear store, which replaced the previous City Sports.

Many Cambridge citizens tweeted their opinions as to what should inhabit the old City Sports space from 2016 to mid-summer of 2017 using the hashtag, “1815MASSAVE”. Trader Joe’s was a popular suggestion among the locals, while Melissa Roberts tweeted, “I’d like to see some affordable housing.”

Affordable housing will be coming to the area soon. Plans are in the works for a new housing complex behind Lesley’s Lunder Arts Center.

The Porter Square Galleria is also set for a major update as a two-floor “city” Target is planning to inhabit the old Walgreens.

The idea of more businesses coming into the Porter Square area is very appealing to Lesley University senior Nicole Diaz-Ortiz. “The main reason I like Porter Square is the accessibility of it from the MBTA and the availability of many resources,” said Diaz-Ortiz.

Accessibility and convenience is also a key component as to why Tiana Crane, 21, also enjoys Porter Square. Crane feels as though Porter Square is well designed and provides a less overwhelming atmosphere than places like Harvard or Central Square while still offering a “solid variety of retail.”

The prospect of new businesses in the Porter Square area does come with pros and cons. Crane reflects, noting that the new businesses bring more job opportunities for people and superstores like Target are in high demand. However, she worries that the bigger attractions will impact the foot traffic, the smaller businesses, parking, and overcrowding from the T.

Crane remained optimistic. “I just hope they'll help the Cambridge economy more than hurt it, but only time will tell,” she said.
As for the future of Porter Square, residents of Cambridge have many high hopes and expectations.

“What I would like to see in the Porter Square area is affordable apartments for college students and young adults in the area,” Diaz-Ortiz said. “Cambridge offers competitive internships, jobs and education but I believe it is lacking in affordable housing for the individuals in the area who do not have large salaries.”