Harvard Square Conservation District



Welcome to the home page for the Harvard Square Conservation District in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
On this page you will find application information as well as district news, meeting updates, and district guidelines.  This page will be updated periodically by staff of the Historical Commission. If you have any questions about the district, please e-mail Sarah Burks at sburks@cambridgema.gov or call the office at 617/349-4683.

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Overview Page

The Harvard Square Conservation District is an area of mixed-use buildings in the historic center of Cambridge, and it is approximately bounded by Massachusetts Avenue and Mount Auburn, Eliot, Bennett, Story, and Church streets. The district is administered by the Cambridge Historical Commission, a group of Cambridge citizens appointed by the City Manager.  Administration of district business is provided by staff members of the Historical Commission office, a department of the city government.

Types of Certificates Issued:
A Certificate of Non-Applicability will be issued for work done in kind (work which matches existing conditions exactly), interior alterations, alterations not visible from any public way, and any other work which does not require review by the neighborhood conservation district commission (see regulations above). These certificates are generally issued by the Historical Commission staff on-the-spot.

A Certificate of Appropriateness will be issued for reviewable alterations which the neighborhood conservation district commission deems not incongruous to the character of the property in question.

Occasionally, a Certificate of Hardship will be issued for work which is not otherwise appropriate if the Commission determines that failure to approve an application would entail a substantial hardship, financial or otherwise, and that the work would not be a significant detriment to the district.

One of these certificates is always necessary to obtain a building permit for work in a neighborhood conservation district.  All of the Commission's regulatory approvals have a life of six months. This means that the owner of the property has six months, from the date a certificate is issued, to obtain a building permit. Upon written request, the chair of the Commission may issue a six-month extension. If an extension is not issued, the owner must resubmit the Application for Certificate for the Commission's review.

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