Three big projects in the area are nearing completion this fall. While the T is putting the finishing touches on its new Lechmere station and the new viaduct that will carry Green Line trains into Somerville, MassDOT and the City of Cambridge are also rebuilding the O'Brien Highway to create safer crosswalks and physically-separated bike lanes that will connect to lanes on the Charles River Dam.
Meanwhile, DivcoWest, a private-sector development company, is building several new high-rises just north of the viaduct as part of their "Cambridge Crossing" development.
When fully built out, the district will include new homes for approximately 2,400 families, plus 2.1 million square feet of lab space and offices.
As part of that project, two smaller retail and restaurant buildings along First Street are opening this fall in an effort to entice people to visit the new district. One of those buildings (pictured at the top of this post) houses a new REI cooperative, which opened this past weekend.
The store's manager, Aly Simmons, told StreetsblogMASS that REI picked the location in part because of its excellent access to transit and to the new Community Path, which runs right by the store (the path is still under construction between Lechmere and Somerville, but a short existing section extends eastward from REI to North Bank Park on the Charles River, and more pathways in the vicinity are in the planning stages).
"We're here for the biking customer," said Simmons. "We know Cambridge is a community that loves to be outside, whether for adventure or for their everyday commute."
REI also shares a building with Cambridge Crossing's bike center, a key component of the new neighborhood's transportation management agreement with the City of Cambridge.
Envisioned as an amenity for bike commuters, the bike center includes showers, changing rooms, lockers, charging outlets for e-bike batteries, two repair stands, and basic tools for minor repairs and adjustments. A small vending machine will dispense patch kits and bike tubes to help users fix flat tires. And, if a visitor needs more serious work done on their vehicle, REI's in-house bike shop is right next door.
The bike center will be open to the general public for anyone to use, whether or not they live or work in the neighborhood. DivcoWest will manage the bike center as a common space.
Between the new REI store and the Lechmere station entrance, the developers have also promised to build a new "station plaza" that will include space for events under the viaduct and lots of additional bike parking, including a new Bluebikes dock and an MBTA "Pedal & Park" area.
Work on the west side of the station plaza will begin next year, since the space is still being used as a staging area for Green Line construction.