The Transformational Journey of CambridgeSide Mall in Cambridge, MA

The Genesis and Evolution of CambridgeSide

CambridgeSide Mall opened its doors on September 13, 1990, and has since been a staple in the Cambridge community. Originally called CambridgeSide Galleria, the mall emerged as a component of the broader 1978 East Cambridge Riverfront Plan aimed at urban renewal. This plan aimed to breathe new life into the then-industrial district between Monsignor O’Brien Highway, Cambridge Parkway, and First Street.

The east end of CambridgeSide is near the Museum of Science, and the north end is close to the MBTA Lechmere station. These landmarks make the mall a shopping destination and a part of the larger East Cambridge landscape, seamlessly integrating with the community’s daily life.

It’s also located along the Lechmere Canal off the Charles River, making it easily accessible and adding a scenic touch to your shopping experience.

Over the years, the mall has seen several changes, including a name change in 2017 from CambridgeSide Galleria to simply CambridgeSide. This was more than a mere rebranding; it signaled a shift in the mall’s identity to keep up with the times and meet the community’s evolving needs.

The Architectural Marvel

Designed by the architectural firm Arrowstreet, CambridgeSide boasts a retail floor area of a whopping 1,000,000 square feet. The mall is spread across three floors, with two dedicated to retail and one earmarked for future office space. The design is modern yet welcoming, aiming to create an environment where everyone feels at home.

Garage parking is available, making it convenient for those driving to the mall. For those relying on public transportation, the mall is accessible via the Lechmere station on the Green Line, making it a hassle-free destination.

The mall’s architecture is not just about aesthetics; it’s functional. The layout is designed to facilitate easy movement, with spacious corridors and well-placed escalators and elevators. This makes for a comfortable shopping experience, whether you’re there for a quick errand or a day-long shopping spree.

The Anchor Tenants: Past and Present

CambridgeSide has had a rich history of anchor tenants that have come and gone. The mall was initially anchored by department stores like Lechmere, Filene’s, Sears, and Macy’s. These stores were the pillars that drew crowds and gave the mall its initial burst of popularity.

However, times changed, and so did the anchor tenants. Sears closed its doors in December 2018, followed by Macy’s Home and Children’s store in mid-2019. Macy’s closed permanently on December 27, 2020, as part of a nationwide plan to close 46 stores.

TJ Maxx is the lone anchor tenant, having replaced Borders and relocated in 2022. Despite the changes, the mall continues attracting shoppers. The departure of some stores has made room for new opportunities and a more diverse range of tenants.

CambridgeSide” by alexa627 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Glimpse into the Tenant Mix

CambridgeSide is home to a diverse range of tenants that cater to various needs and preferences. From tech stores like Apple and AT&T to fashion outlets like American Eagle Outfitters and Aldo Shoes, the mall offers a wide array of options for the discerning shopper.

Foodies are not left out, either. With a range of dining options, including The Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, and Panda Express, there’s something to satiate every palate. Dunkin’ and Burger King are also present for those looking for quick bites.

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But it’s not all about shopping and dining. The mall also houses service providers like Bank of America, LensCrafters, and a Tesla Supercharger Station. This makes CambridgeSide a one-stop destination for various needs, making it a central part of the community’s daily life.

Unique tenants like the Charles Riverboat Company add a special flavor to the mall. Whether you’re a tourist or a local looking for things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a riverboat ride could be a fun and different way to spend your day.

The Mall’s Transformation and Future Plans

CambridgeSide is not just resting on its laurels. Following a multi-million dollar rebranding and renovation, the mall is set to undergo a transformative redevelopment. Approximately 650,000 square feet of office, life science, and residential space are being added to the complex.

Upon completion, CambridgeSide will feature six interconnected buildings totaling 2 million square feet. This will include retail, office, life science, residential, and even hotel uses, making it a genuinely mixed-use complex.

One of the most exciting future developments is SmartLabs opening its newest location on Level 3 in late 2024. This will offer a unique, separate, street-level entrance with an impressive double-height lobby. Employees and guests will take a private elevator to Level 3, where cutting-edge problem-solving and innovation will occur.

The first construction phase began in Fall 2021 and includes 20 CambridgeSide (former Macy’s) and 60 First (former Sears). This multi-phase construction aims to keep the mall operating while serving the community, with minimal impact on nearby residents, pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles. This is crucial for serving the community while undergoing significant changes, balancing the old and the new.

The Community and Environmental Initiatives

CambridgeSide is more than just a shopping destination; it’s a community hub. One of the mall’s initiatives is the Cambridge Bike Give Back program, which promotes sustainable transportation and community involvement.

The mall houses Volta EV Charging Stations regarding environmental sustainability, encouraging electric vehicle use. This broader commitment to sustainability and ecological responsibility aligns with the community’s values.

Safety is another priority, with United Security Inc. managing the mall’s public safety measures. This ensures a secure environment for shoppers, making it a reliable and safe place for families and individuals.

Community involvement doesn’t stop at sustainability and safety. The mall also hosts events and activities that engage the community, from holiday celebrations to charity drives. This makes CambridgeSide not just a place to shop but a place to connect.

The mall’s impact on the local economy and community is significant. It draws shoppers from Cambridge and nearby companies, universities, hotels, and tourist attractions. This makes it a key player in the local economy, contributing to employment and revenue.


CambridgeSide has come a long way since its opening in 1990. It has evolved to meet the community’s changing needs while retaining its core identity as a shopping and lifestyle destination. Its rich history, diverse tenant mix, and plans make it a significant part of the Cambridge landscape.

The mall’s ongoing transformation and redevelopment plans testify to its adaptability and resilience. As it prepares for the future, CambridgeSide continues to serve the community in new and exciting ways.

The mall distinguishes itself through its dedication to community engagement and eco-friendly practices, elevating it beyond a mere shopping center. It’s a place where people come together, memories are made, and the community finds some of everything it needs.

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