Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

August 21, 2015

City of Cambridge Selects Utile Architecture + Planning team for Citywide Plan

Filed under: Cambridge,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 4:40 pm

City of Cambridge Selects Consultant for Citywide Plan
Utile Architecture + Planning team selected to run multiyear process

Cambridge NeighborhoodsAug 21, 2015 – Today, Cambridge Officials announced that an interdisciplinary team led by Utile Architecture + Planning (Utile) has been selected for the Cambridge citywide planning project. “The City is looking forward to embarking on this important citywide process with Utile,” said Richard C. Rossi, City Manager. “This multiyear effort is a major investment that the City is making in the future of our community. Residents, business employers and employees, property owners and developers, institutions, non-profit organizations, and many other stakeholders will be active participants in this process and a key component to ensuring that the citywide plan reflects the values of our community. I want to thank the other highly qualified and respected firms that participated in our selection process.”

The other finalists in the City’s selection process were Sasaki, and Perkins + Will.

On July 27, 2015, the finalists made presentations to and answered questions from the public in an event held in the Sullivan Chambers in City Hall. Following the public presentations, the City’s Selection Committee conducted a multi-day evaluation process that resulted in City Manager Richard C. Rossi accepting the recommendation to hire Utile. Over the next few weeks the City will be working with Utile to finalize a contract, including financial arrangements, for the public process that will begin this fall.

“The Utile team brings a deep understanding of local planning issues and a fresh, creative approach to public engagement,” said Lisa Peterson, Chair of the Selection Committee. “Using a rigorous, data-driven process, the Utile team will complement and augment the capacity of City staff to develop a strategic framework to address a broad range of issues including mobility, housing, land use, urban design, environment, social equity, economic development, and open space.”

The planning process that will be kicked off this fall will span multiple years and will include a robust community engagement process.

“Cambridge’s citywide plan will create a shared vision for the city, develop policy and design goals and actionable recommendations to guide future changes in the city,” said Iram Farooq, Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development. “The end result of this process will be a shared vision on how Cambridge can remain livable, sustainable, and equitable not just for the current generation, but also for generations to come.”

The citywide planning process aims to integrate and build upon the City’s existing policies, programs, and initiatives through an inclusive, wide-reaching process that looks beyond traditional planning efforts to guide future change in Cambridge. During the multi-year process, early action items and pilot projects may be identified and launched. [Read Utile Proposal (22.6MB PDF)]

The planning process will examine a broad range of issues, including mobility, housing, land use, urban design, environment, social equity, economic development, and open space. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks about the public process that will begin this fall!

For more information, please visit the project page on the Community Development Department’s website, or email

Utile is a 40-person, Boston-based planning and design firm. Built like a think tank, the firm thrives on solving complex problems in intelligent and pragmatic ways. From theoretical issues that frame policy to the practical implementation of architectural commissions, Utile develops a rigorous research-based approach for finding the best solutions. Utile specializes in unique regulatory, political, and design challenges, and is committed to the revitalization of the American city through proactive planning and design that bridges public and private jurisdictional boundaries.


  1. Why does the city require this?

    Comment by Fred Baker — August 22, 2015 @ 11:33 am

  2. Fred – The City certainly doesn’t require this type of planning process facilitated by an outside contractor. This is something that the City Council voted to pursue based on a political push for it over a year ago. Many people question the need for it, including me, but it is hoped that some good ideas are generated during the process.

    It will be interesting to see how those who were insistent on have this “master plan” react if the process leads to recommendations not in keeping with their preconceived ideas about what the “right” conclusions are supposed to be.

    Comment by Robert Winters — August 22, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

  3. Utile was the best of the bunch. If we have to do this I’m glad we are using them. I’m curious to see what happens when utile reiterates what most of the people promoting development in the city have been saying for years. This whole “conversation” was prompted by one motivating factor; control. I’m hoping this council has a bit more courage than the last group. The previous council allowed the anti-everything crowd to derail the C2 process, forced master plan nonsense on everyone, and all because they felt the distinct loss of control they once had over public opinion and the council. Now people want development more than ever and it frightens the hell out of them. This master plan will tell us to build mixed use everywhere you see a bright and shiny “T” and it will suggest we loosen up commercial/retail regulations, and it will outline a pattern of growth for this city that some of us have been fighting for a long time; and when that verdict is announced they’ll all say it was rigged. I bet a jumbo soft serve cone on it.

    Comment by Patrick W Barrett III — August 22, 2015 @ 6:34 pm

  4. I skimmed the proposal it looks pretty good.

    I hope this planning process will include lots of emphasis on our relationship with abutting municipalities and their planning processes – especially Somerville and Boston. Very important especially when considering transportation and other infrastructure issues. Cambridge isn’t an isolated island. Also our relationship with our Universities – especially MIT and Harvard who occupy lots of real estate – create housing demand, generate lots of visitors, ….

    Comment by John Gintell — August 24, 2015 @ 10:44 am

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