Allston Plans Continue To Meet Resistance

Residents voice concerns over proposed complex at Task Force meeting

Allston residents continued to voice concerns about the impact of Harvard’s proposed science complex and questioned the University’s relationship with the neighborhood at a meeting of the Harvard Allston Task Force last night.

Allston residents at the meeting showed signs of disagreement with the task force, which is staffed by neighborhood residents and is intended to represent the area’s interests as Harvard expands its campus across the Charles River.

Residents criticized the task force’s chair for supporting Harvard’s plan to build a science complex whose height would exceed the guidelines set by the North Allston Neighborhood Strategic Plan, a 2004 scheme set out by Harvard and the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

“It’s very offensive to me to listen to the chair of the task force saying that he’s okay with a building that violated the North Allston Strategic Plan,” Allston resident Paul Alford said.

The task force chair, Ray Mellone, urged residents to “be a little bit more mature about these subjects,” noting that building designs change over time to accommodate new needs.

“We can’t say that height alone is the only determining factor,” he said of the planned complex.

Last month, task force meetings dents said Harvard was not giving them enough time to weigh several of the University’s proposed construction projects.

Also in March, smaller subcommittee meetings were held to address more specific issues—such as design components of the proposed science complex and the impact that construction would have on surrounding roadways.

Despite those meetings—and the slight ameliorating effect they appear to have had on relations between University officials and Allston residents—the height of the science complex has remained a point of contention.

Task force member Brent Whelan, who said he lives 100 yards from the Western Avenue location of the future three-building complex, said that he worried about a “towering” structure close to his home.

“We said that we all hoped that the heights would be 55 feet and that they might rise to 75 feet,” he said of the design, which shows buildings that range in height from 88 to more than 200 feet. “How can this building considerably be thought of to honor that agreement?”

Kathy Spiegelman, the chief planner for Harvard’s Allston Development Group, said that Harvard had been taking the community’s concerns to heart.

“Every time that Stefan has come back, his design has gotten lower and lower,” she said, referring the Stefan Behnisch, the designer of the science complex.

“I do want to acknowledge that it’s not that we haven’t heard you,” she added.

Task force member Millie McLaughlin agreed that there was still a long way to go in the planning process.

“We’re just like you, we’re trying to listen to all of it before we can make a final decision,” she said.

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