Saturday, April 20, 2024

The sale of what we have known as “nonprofit row” in The Port neighborhood near Central Square could uproot some of the most cherished and significant nonprofits in Cambridge. But it is also personal to me.

For more than 50 years the building at 93-99 Bishop Allen Drive has housed nonprofit organizations such as Cambridge Camping, where my three stepdaughters attended and worked their first jobs as camp counselors in training. Nonprofit row is also home to the Sustainable Business Network, where I have been on the board of directors for more than 10 years. SBN, which seeds organizations such as Cambridge Local First and Somerville Local First, engages business and community leaders in building economies that are local, green and fair. The organization is one of nine “buy local” groups advancing and supporting a healthy local food system in Massachusetts and has supported hundreds of local and independently owned businesses within Greater Boston and New England.

The nonprofits in the building serve thousands of clients ranging from survivors of sexual violence to young adults living with severe chronic disease, as well as uplifting families living in poverty. The renters include the Cambridge Community Foundation, Next Step charity for youth, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, The Algebra Project, The Young People’s Project, Brattle Film Foundation and LaunchX entrepreneur program for high school students. There are more than 170 staff, interns, volunteers, youth camp and math literacy workers who might have to find new places to offer services.

The Cambridge neighborhood of The Port, with its proximity to tech headquarters, has been experiencing the pressures of residential displacement for decades from development creeping in over the train tracks from Kendall Square, where major tech and biotech giants have located to be close to young talent. Some city residents have gotten jobs – but we have also gotten gleaming towers and escalations real estate prices for residential and commercial use, resulting in grave concern about the retention of vulnerable residents and nonprofit organizations who serve them.

I wish the seller of the building – Enroot, formerly Cambridge Community Services – well with its own worthy work, but I am heartened and grateful that the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority has made a competitive offer to buy 93-99 Bishop Allen Drive. If the sale is successful, it would be committed to continue leasing to nonprofit organizations. It is important to keep these nonprofits in Central Square, where they bring tremendous value to the city.

Please support me in advocating for Enroot to consider seriously the sale of nonprofit row to the CRA to preserve a legacy of supporting resilient communities and help our nonprofits stay in Cambridge. Sign a petition today at

Nicola A. Williams, Sustainable Business Network Board Member and Cambridge resident