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The 5 Cambridge Developments Everyone Should Be Watching

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Including Mass + Main, 88 Ames, and Forbes Plaza

Cambridge's pace of development is nowhere near that of bigger neighbor Boston. There are, however, sizable and transformative projects slated for the People's Republic. Heck, people in power have openly talked of erecting New England's tallest tower there. These five projects are a little more concrete than that blue-sky design, and are exactly the ones that everyone interested in Cambridge circa 2016 should be watching. Why? Because of either their scope or what they represent (or both).

Forbes Plaza

Harvard University wants to redevelop the Harvard Square area around its student union known as Forbes Plaza. Plans have proved contentious as the expanse now serves as a kind of nerve center for Harvard Square, if not for the entire Mid-Cambridge neighborhood, and the university's changes (part of a larger renovation to the Josep L. Sert-designed student union) are seen as an attempt to sanitize the plaza a bit.

Plans as of the end of 2015 include a second-floor, semi-public balcony jutting from the student union. The university would also extend by four feet the building's existing glass wall, thereby gobbling up some of Forbes Plaza. Harvard has a slew of municipal O.K.'s in its corner, but serious work has yet to begin on the changes.

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Kendall Square Initiative

The mega-project on M.I.T.'s campus is slated to produce approximately 250 net new housing units for graduate students and approximately 290 additional housing units for the general population; more than 100,000 square feet of new and repositioned ground-floor retail; and nearly three acres of new and re-purposed open spaces. All totaled, the initiative would add six buildings to the area.

Everything is supposed to be done in the next six to 10 years. The Cambridge Planning Board unanimously approved the university's preliminary plans in September 2015, but a public review continues (the last presentation was in early January).

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88 Ames Street

Work on the Kendall Square tower commenced in late 2015. It is due to have 280 apartments and will stretch to (a-giant-for-Cambridge) 22 stories. There will also be 16,000 square feet of ground-floor retail amid 88 Ames' 164,000 square feet overall. Boston Properties hopes to open 88 Ames in 2018.

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NorthPoint Site

Developer DivcoWest out of San Francisco bought this 42-acre site between Interstate 93 and the Museum of Science in NorthPoint in late summer 2015. The expanse is the largest build-able parcel in Cambridge; and is already approved for an astounding 4.5 million square feet of development.

What does that mean in practice? Around 2,800 apartments as well as 2.1 million square feet of office, research, and retail space. Plus! Eleven acres of new parks and a Lechmere stop on the Green Line. All will likely be geared toward tech and biotech pros either working in this new, ground-up neighborhood or in nearby hubs such as Kendall Square and Boston's Innovation District.

There's no timetable on the site right now, but DivcoWest's acquisition was seen at the time as a kick in the shins for progress.

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Mass + Main

The city in May 2015 O.K.'d a key zoning change that allowed a 195-foot Central Square tower to move forward. It will replace the Quest Diagnostics building (and surrounding lots); and is slated to include 230 apartments of varying affordability.

The tower is only one piece of the puzzle, though. The approximately 300,000- to 700,000-square-foot Mass + Main is also supposed to include retail, hotel rooms, and office space, according to Twining Properties, which is developing it with Normandy Real Estate. The developers hope to be under construction by mid-2017.