Allston Hangs Hopes On Harvard Growth

For years, Cambridge activists have protested every parcel Harvard has purchased and every building Harvard has planned, saying that the city is far too densely developed already.

But across the river—where Harvard now owns 271 acres of land—a vastly different planning process is taking place.

The Allston community has welcomed Harvard expansion and tacked its hopes for a revitalized community on Harvard’s vision for a new Allston campus.

Not everyone wins with a new Allston, however. Harvard’s presence threatens to send rents through the roof and force Allston’s young renters to look for new homes. And Allston’s industries and auto-repair shops face a community that wants them out to make way for a new Allston, a homeowner’s paradise.

“Their property values will surely increase. The people who rent are surely going to suffer,” says Chair of Harvard’s Department of Urban Planning and Design Alex Krieger.

Now and Then

When Harvard revealed its secret purchase of 51 acres of land in North Allston five years ago, Boston’s mayor called the move “arrogant” and residents were incensed.

“Harvard had the resources to buy up the entire neighborhood,” said Allston Civic Association President Paul Berkeley. “People looked at the size and they got very nervous.”

According to Berkeley, those fears calmed and people have realized that there are benefits to having just one owner of nearly all the non-residential land in Allston.

“If you look at the amount of land that they’ve purchased, it’s quite large and there’s a lot of potential for development,” Berkeley says. “One of the advantages is you’re dealing with a single entity instead of 50.”

Long-term residents and property owners say they are excited at the prospect of having a new Harvard campus replace Allston’s industrial lots, truck depots and railroad yards.

“If we look at Harvard’s Business School, the architecture and the landscaping, that is really an oasis,” Berkeley says.

Even small changes could make an improvement to their landscape, residents say.

“A little area with a few trees with some flowers and bushes is something that we’re really lacking,” Berkeley says.

Richard Garaffo, owner of a Soldiers Field Road building that he says is the “first acquisition Harvard made,” is planning to relocate to another Allston location.

He says he is looking forward to seeing the changes that Harvard could make to the neighborhood.