Riverside Concerns Continue

Riverside Residents again voiced concerns over the University’s Memorial Drive construction plans at a meeting of the Riverside Neighborhood Association last night, a week after those plans were presented to the city Planning Board.

The University is seeking the board’s approval to build a total of 328 units of faculty and affiliate housing in two sites in Riverside—along Cowperthwaite and Grant Streets near Mather House, and on a parcel of land along Memorial Drive.

Under a 2003 agreement, Harvard is allowed to build taller buildings on its Riverside property than abutters had originally wanted, in return for creating a park, instituting permit parking, and building 36 units of low- and moderate-income housing.

Within the resident group there were differences on how to respond to Harvard’s plan.

Kevin Hill, who lives next-door to the Memorial Drive site where Harvard hopes to build, has objected to the buildings as obstructing the view of the Charles River, and has proposed moving the buildings to Western Avenue.

“They are not putting those buildings on the back of my people,” he said last night.

Hill said he is planning to submit his alternative proposal to the Planning Board. Last week, a Harvard representative said the University would study Hill’s plan but added that it appeared to violate existing zoning agreements.

Jay Wilson, who lives on Western Avenue, threatened to organize a petition to protest Hill’s proposal if it gains momentum. Building on Western Avenue would “make [the street] into another canyon,” require changing the zoning laws and significantly diminish accessibility to the river by the neighborhood, she said.

“We know what’s right for this community too. We’ve been a community for 70 years before you came here,” Hill replied.

Wilson proceeded to storm out of the meeting.

Lawrence Adkins, the association’s president who also sits on the Planning Board, urged residents to submit their complaints to the board rather than bickering among themselves.

Adkins has himself expressed reservations with the University’s proposals.

Of particular concern to him is the University’s plan to spread the 36 low-income apartments concentrated in a single building.

He praised the University for being willing to negotiate about design elements, noting that they had agreed to remove fences originally planned on the site.

After the meeting, Kerry Corner resident Carol Bankerd said she was concerned about the location of the University’s proposed underground parking lot for the planned development near Mather House. The parking lot threatens the existence of 13 100-year-old trees, she said. The University could save the trees by building the parking lot deeper or keeping it underneath the proposed buildings.