The Port Neighborhood in Cambridge, MA has played a key role in the City’s manufacturing and immigrant history, a place where generations of families of diverse backgrounds have grown up. A youth center, social service organizations, churches, schools, and a children’s arts center strengthen the fabric of the neighborhood. With mostly low buildings and dense residential streets in a third of a square mile, the Port is flanked by MIT and hundreds of biotech and high tech companies in Kendall and Central Squares, their workers looking for nearby housing and their tall glass and steel buildings standing in stark contrast to the Port, where three housing developments are home to many families living below the poverty line. Corner stores and small restaurants have been closing. Unsolved murders of young adults continue to raise concern. A neighborhood under stress, the Port is at a critical moment in its evolution.
The disparity between the highest growth area of Cambridge (site of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Novartis, Pfizer, Amazon, and the Koch Institute) and the community in need next door presents an unjust urban picture. What used to be an area of lowest rents is feeling pressure that threatens the social and economic character of its community, which feels unseen and unheard. Of 7,000 Port residents (approximately 50% people of color) almost 1,000 are young adults ages 18-25. Too many of these individuals who have grown up in the shadow of “Little Silicon Valley” are unemployed or underemployed, with associated street involvement, risks, and loss of hope. Once they reach 18 and no longer can participate in the programs for children, they do not have an arts-based space in the Port that taps into their talent, develops workforce skills, and acknowledges the context of their lives. This is where we think the Loop Lab can be an invaluable resource to dozens of youth/young adults in the area. Click here to learn more about the Port Neighborhood. We also recommend Sarah Boyer's recent book, or you can request a customized tour from The Loop Lab Team.