If the University's plans to buy the building at 230 Western Ave. have proved controversial, one would not know it by talking to those who live around it, many of whom say they are more dissatisfied with the site's current owner.
"We want Harvard. We do want Harvard," said one of the immediate neighbors of the Brighton office building at a Harvard-sponsored forum this week.
At the forum, the site's neighbors expressed more concern with encouraging the building's soon-to-be owners to change the unsightly paint color and stop snow plows from driving down their streets early in the morning than with discussion of the role of Harvard in their community.
But others in Allston-Brighton, backed by some Boston city officials, have lambasted Harvard for the building purchase, charging that it constituted a major breach of trust on the part of the University.
"The building is not really the issue. I'm talking about process," says Ray Mellone, who chairs Allston-Brighton's Planning and Zoning Advisory Committee (PZAC), which has led the opposition to Harvard's purchase.
At stake is the master plan process, by which large institutions in Boston have been required to chart their plans for growth and development over the next five years. The master plans are crucial to Boston's efforts to overhaul zoning codes--which have not been reformed in 25 years--and protect fragile neighborhoods from explosive institutional growth at their fringes.
Harvard did not include its plans to buy 230 Western Ave. in its master plan and did not mention the site during the two years of discussion leading to the master plan's approval in April.
The University has since contended that the master plan only covered on-campus development and has pointed to its policy of keeping real estate transactions secret until they are completed.
But PZAC members have said that implicit in the master plan process was a discussion of off-campus building purchases and have accused the University of exploiting a loop-hole.
The master plan process is a particularly sensitive one for Allston-Brighton, which is home to parts of Harvard, Boston College and Boston University.
"Let's face it, this used to be a community of families," says PZAC member Mary Talty. "Since the institutions are coming in, we're getting less and less families and more and more transients."
Harvard emerged from its two-year master planning process--which culminated this spring when the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved the University's plan--as something of a model for other institutions, according to PZAC members.
Allston-Brighton, across the Charles River from Cambridge and home to the Business School and the athletic facilities, had for a long time felt like the "back-door" to Harvard, to use the phrase of resident Gary McIsaac, but the indepth discussion involved in coming up with a master plan was seen as a means of changing that.
The University agreed to scale back plans for a new Office for Information Technology building at the corner of Western Ave. and North Harvard St. and even supplied an optional 10-year development projection.
And it was the perceived violaton of that high level of trust built up between University officials and community members, Allston-Brighton residents say, that spurred the intense reaction against Harvard when it announced the intended purchase of 230 Western Ave. last month.
Harvard May Need New Zoning to Use Western Ave. SiteThe city of Boston this week fired another salvo at Harvard over the University's plan to buy an Allston-Brighton office
Allston Task Force Convenes to Discuss University PlansThe Allston-Brighton task force convened for the first time last week at the Honan-Allston Library to set up a schedule
University To Unveil Expansion PlansHoping to quell Allston residents’ fears of University expansion, Harvard officials promised to present a short master plan forecasting development
Election Ends Political AnxietyThe election of Cambridge City Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio to the Massachusetts state senate not only effectively filled a vacant
Residents Criticize Allston Master PlanMembers of the Harvard Allston Task Force criticized the University’s master plan for expansion into the Boston neighborhood over the
Residents Express Mixed Reactions to Survey ResultsAllston residents had mixed reactions to the results presented at the task force meeting last night for a community survey