EF Is Building a Huge Public Wellness Space in Cambridge
EF Education First is building fitness paradise on a paved parking lot.
The global education company on Monday announced plans for a wide-ranging expansion in Cambridge’s North Point neighborhood, where it has had a presence for years. In addition to a third new building, EF will also construct a two-acre, open-to-the-public wellness complex where once there was only pavement.
“The land that we are developing on was formerly owned by the state, and it was used as a [temporary] Department of Conservation and Recreation maintenance facility. Technically, that means it was parkland,” explains Vice President of EF Properties Shawna Marino. “[But] it was not accessible to the public. It was a fenced-off cement parking lot that was used for maintenance and operations.”
EF saw a diamond in the rough, and purchased the land from the DCR for $20.4 million—simultaneously financing a permanent maintenance facility for the state, and allowing the company to restore and rejuvenate the bulk of the plot. When it’s finished, the new-and-improved development will include an athletic field, outdoor fitness equipment, space for fitness classes and events, a tennis court, a half basketball court, and passive green space. These resources will be free and open to the public.
“Living a healthy lifestyle is one of our strong focuses here at EF,” Marino says. “We are just so thrilled to share this part of our culture with the community.”
EF sought input from its employees and those who live and work in the North Point area before embarking on the project. It got more than 300 responses, and heard an overwhelming call for a mixed-use athletic field, as well as an outdoor gym similar to those on the Esplanade and at Magazine Beach. Both of those requests made it into the final building plan.
In addition, the ground floor of EF’s new building will house an 11,000-square-foot gym and fitness center, complete with a rock climbing wall, that will be open to the public through paid memberships. The facility will also boast fitness-related retail, a café, bike parking, and a parking lot that will be free on weekends.
The complex isn’t slated to be finished until spring of 2019, but Marino says it represents a bright future for a stretch of land sometimes called “the lost half-mile” along the Charles River.
“If you talk to people who remember what this area used to look like, you wouldn’t come over here,” Marino says. “We think that this is going to add so much vibrancy and energy to this part of East Cambridge.”