Allston Residents Decry Harvard’s Expansion

Allston residents sharply criticized Harvard’s latest batch of plans for the neighborhood at a meeting last night, telling University planners that they had ignored community needs.

The meeting, held at a local library in Allston, focused on the University’s plans for the Allston Science Complex, the starting point for Harvard’s expansion across the Charles. Preliminary designs for the four-building complex, which will include the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, were released in September.

"Ninety-nine percent of this document relates to Harvard’s institutional needs, and less than one percent to community concerns," said Brent Whelan ’73, a member of the Allston Community Task Force.

Another Allston resident said the 100-plus-page document "raises more questions than it answers."

The plan was presented by Stefan Behnisch, the lead architect for the science complex.

"We want to keep a university feel, a campus feel," Behnisch said, pointing to the numerous pedestrian-friendly pathways and canopied yards in computer-generated illustrations. This "green" design will incorporate state-of-the-art methods of natural lighting and ventilation, he added.

One community member called Behnisch’s design "a masterpiece." But others remained frustrated.

"We want specifics," one resident shouted, garnering applause "We know where almost every fern in the window will be, but you’re not telling us where parking is or how traffic will be affected. This is our community you’re talking about."

A project manager with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which oversees new construction in the city, said that the design presented last night was not intended to completely address community concerns.

The plan is "not meant to be a very detailed document, but more an aid for you to formulate questions and think about concerns," said the project manager, Gerald Autler.

"This is just a starting point," he said.

A revised version of the plan is set to be released in January.

—Staff writer Ariadne C. Medler can be reached at amedler@fas.harvard.edu.