Cambridge Neighborhoods in Focus: Cambridge Highlands

shutterstock_61064737Cambridge Highlands is a neighborhood in Cambridge, MA, that is commonly referred to as “Area 12” or “Neighborhood 12”.  It is located on the northeastern edge of the city and is comprised of two distinct areas – a commercial and light industrial area and a residential area.

Cambridge Highlands Real Estate

Cambridge Highlands is bordered by railroad tracks on both the north and east sides, the Belmont town line on the west, and Fresh Pond Reservation on the south.  It has a current residential population of about 670.

The commercial and light industrial area of the neighborhood is situated in the eastern part of the area.  It includes the Fresh Pond Mall as well as several office buildings.  The residential core of the neighborhood is on the western end of the area, bordering Belmont.  There are also some residences along Concord Avenue and a condominium development on Wheeler Street.  A 428 unit residential complex is currently under construction on Fawcett Street.

The street layout in Cambridge Highlands is somewhat unusual due to the early presence of the railroad lines in the community.  The only through roads in the neighborhood are Concord Avenue, which runs east-west, and Alewife Brook Parkway, which runs north-south.

Cambridge Highlands History

The area that comprises Cambridge Highlands was once swampland between Spy Pond and Fresh Pond.  A road was laid out in the early 1800s as part of the Cambridge and Concord Turnpike that connected the West Boston Bridge to the center of Concord, MA.  Today that road is Concord Avenue.

The neighborhood has a wide corridor of railroad lines on the north end which first opened as the Fitchburg Railroad in 1843.  It had stations on either side of the wetlands with a spur running diagonally from the northeast to the southwest, which helps to explain some of the unusual property lines found today.  In 1847 the Watertown Branch Railroad began construction, which skirts Fresh Pond to the east.  That railroad was officially abandoned in 2011 and is now being turned into a rail trail.

Cambridge Highlands Shopping, Dining and Recreation

Cambridge Highlands affords residents ample opportunities for shopping and dining due to the commercial area located on the eastern edge of the community.  The neighborhood contains the Fresh Pond Mall, which includes such stores and restaurants as:

  • Whole Foods Market
  • PetSmart
  • TJMaxx
  • McDonald’s
  • Movie theatre

Other businesses located along on the Alewife Brook Parkway include:

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Trader Joe’s
  • CVS Pharmacy

The neighborhood also offers residents several local parks in and around the community for recreational opportunities, including:

  • Fresh Pond Reservation
  • Rafferty Park
  • Blair Pond
  • Alewife Brook Reservation
  • Danehy Park
  • Kingsley Park
  • Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Municipal Golf Course

Cambridge Highlands Transportation

The main thoroughfares in Cambridge Highlands are Concord Avenue running east-west and Alewife Brook Parkway (State Route 2) running north-south.  Public transportation options for the neighborhood include the MBTA Alewife Station across the railroad tracks in North Cambridge as well as the public buses that run along Concord Avenue and connect to Harvard Square.

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