Boston Approves Allston Complex

Harvard says quick construction will help researchers

BOSTON—Harvard received unanimous approval yesterday to build its 589,000-square-foot science complex in Allston, the first project to get the go-ahead in the University’s 50-year planned expansion across the Charles River.

The four-building complex, approved last night by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, will house the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.

Harvard planners hope that the $1 billion complex, which will sit at the intersection of Western Avenue and North Harvard Street, will turn Allston into a mecca for stem cell research.

“We really think it will advance research in human disease,” said Christopher M. Gordon, the chief operating officer for Harvard’s Allston Development Group. “We think it’ll help the economy, we think it will keep Boston as number one in the life sciences market.”

The new complex, home to sky bridges, winter gardens, and an inner courtyard, will utilize wind and solar energy to keep greenhouse gas emissions at an unprecedented 50 percent of the national standard.

At yesterday’s meeting, Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman said that obtaining approval on the project would prove essential in attracting and retaining world-class scientists at Harvard.

“If we can’t move ahead in a timely fashion, I think we will lose many of our leading scientists to other areas,” he told members of the Boston Redevelopment Authority before the decision was announced. “Keeping this dream team together is absolutely critical.”

Although many members of the community were in favor of the scientific aims of the project, some expressed concern about Harvard’s level of communication with neighbors during planning.

“To say that the community questions went unanswered at times would be an understatement,” said State Representative Michael J. Moran. “Question after question after question, night after night would go unanswered.”

But Hyman assured the community that Harvard was committed to addressing the needs of residents.

“Frankly, we’re not going to blow it,” he said. “We want to keep working with you over a very long time. So this has to be a mutually constructive and beneficial relationship.”

Over the coming months, Harvard will finalize a community benefits package and a plan to mitigate construction-related inconveniences.

—Staff writer Laura A. Moore can be reached at lamoore@fas.harvard.edu.