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Kendall Square people socializing

July 2019–March 2020

500 Kendall Street, Cambridge, MA

Over the course of nine months, CultureHouse Kendall provided space to gather, added vibrancy, and drew people to the Canal District. The pop-up was a radical experiment in creating vibrancy in a place that was lacking it. The response we got from the community was overwhelming, demonstrating the need for more social infrastructure in the area.

People sit on couches and chairs at the CultureHouse pop-up in Kendall Square
Outside of Kendall Square
People sitting Kendall Square
Kendall Square bike workshop
Kendall Square setup
Kendall Square street

What happened

People used CultureHouse Kendall to study, work, play board games, enjoy free coffee and tea, and engage with those around them. The pop-up provided a place where people could just… be around other people without a financial barrier to entry. CultureHouse Kendall also hosted many community events including exhibits, weekly movie nights, workshops, and even “Culturepalooza,” our very own take on a music festival.

By the numbers
8x – weekend traffic increase
152 – visitors on busiest day
6pm-8pm – busiest time of day
52% – stayed for more than an hour
Visitor demographics
45% – BIPOC
50% – women


Stickiness in the Canal District

CultureHouse Kendall helped to create a reason to stay in the Canal District during low traffic times. We did this by running programming on evenings and weekends when this street was less active. We encouraged long-term interaction with the space, resulting in 52% of our visitors staying for more than one hour.

Designing for vibrancy

Many visitors told us CultureHouse Kendall was a cozy, colorful, and welcoming space. By using natural materials and activating of the storefront windows, we created a beacon of warmth and comfort within the neighborhood.

Spaces for families

Families were grateful for the pop-up, as there were few kid-friendly spaces in the nearby area. A weekly mothers’ group even started meeting at CultureHouse Kendall and children under 5 made up 14.5% of our visitors.

Impact report

While the CultureHouse Kendall pop-up was temporary, we gained important insight into creating vibrancy in the community. This report, created from months of qualitative and quantitative data, sums up what we learned and serves as a permanent vestige of what happened during those nine months.

Where is it now?

While CultureHouse Kendall was open, BioMed Realty embarked on a planning process for their planned 585 Third Street development for the gravel lot across from the pop-up site. Inspired by what they saw at CultureHouse Kendall, BioMed included a “community living room” in their plans for the public area on the first floor of the building. Various other lessons have found their way into the building design, including a more vibrant and welcoming interior and exterior, regular programming, and a flexible layout.


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