Residents Call for a Voice in Allston Planning

Locals demand inclusion of neighborhood needs on meeting agendas

Local residents asked the University to redirect its public discussions toward neighborhood concerns like traffic and community benefits at a well-attended meeting of the Harvard-Allston Task Force that provided more details about Harvard’s projects in Allston Wednesday night.

The three Allston projects include a 500,000 square foot science complex and two smaller centers devoted to the arts.

One of the new cultural centers, to be located in what is now a Verizon building, will provide studio space for visiting artists and be open to the public for performances, according to David Lewis, a new member of Harvard’s Allston Development Group who will focus on arts and culture.

Administrative Director of the Life Sciences Russ Porter also said that the science complex would contain undergraduate research labs and large lecture halls, and house the new Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, in addition to the Stem Cell Institute.

But the audience quickly drowned out Porter’s presentation on the intricacies of embryonic stem cells with questions about traffic, community benefits, and the empty commercial space in Harvard’s properties along Western Ave.

“I’m all in favor of the stem cell building, but you’ve really got to do a better job of giving us information,” said Task Force Chair Ray Mellone.

“You telling us this is not going to help anyone here, who wants to know what’s going to happen to their homes,” added Charlesview resident Gloria Pearlmutter.

At a smaller meeting after last night’s public session, task force member Paul Berkley asked the bi-weekly meetings be reorganized so that their contents would reflect the needs of the neighborhood.

“We need to start having input on the agenda and not just being an audience,” he said.

In April, Harvard officially notified Boston of its desire to amend its existing Institutional Master Plan, a longterm document that Boston requires all universities to submit outlining the intended uses of their property.

Though Harvard hopes to release a new Institutional Master Plan by the end of the calendar year, the amendment would bypass this more intricate process to jumpstart work on the science and arts facilities.

In June, the city of Boston will formally respond to the University’s amendments in a document intended to incorporate neighborhood concerns.

—Staff writer Natalie I. Sherman can be reached at nsherman@fas.harvard.edu.