Residents Worry Over Allston Construction

Science Complex will be four years, 1,000 workers in the making

Concerns about how construction of the University’s 500,000 square foot science complex in Allston might negatively impact the Boston neighborhood marked a meeting of the Harvard Allston Task Force Wednesday night.

During the meeting between Harvard officials, Boston officials, and the task force—17 mayor-appointed local residents—Harvard planners outlined the ways in which construction of the science complex would impact the area.

University officials estimate that over the three to four years that it will take to complete construction of the proposed science complex, up to 1,000 workers will be present on the Western Avenue construction site.

Questions about what streets those workers will use to navigate into and out of the site from the Massachusetts Turnpike, what their effect on traffic will be, and where they will park once they arrive in the neighborhood dominated the meeting.

A draft project impact report addressing these concerns must be submitted by the University for review by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) before construction can begin on the complex this fall. Harvard will file its draft project impact report to the BRA in June.

The completed complex is slated to house the Harvard Stem Cell Initiative and Harvard’s Initiative in Innovative Computing—a research and development center dedicated to using computing tools to accelerate scientific discoveries—among other science-oriented programs.

In a detailed traffic analysis presentation, Chris Conklin, Harvard’s traffic consultant from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., outlined multiple options for how Harvard’s workers would access and exit the construction site.

One of the access plans utilizes existing roads close to neighbors’ homes, a proposition that drew ire from some residents.

Additionally, local residents worried about how they would discern whether cars parked on neighborhood streets belong to residents or construction workers.

“We can’t police people’s cars,” said Task Force member Mary Helen Black in response to the suggestion that residents utilize a Harvard construction mitigation hotline to report complaints.

“You’ll be getting calls and it won’t be your workers and it’ll be a huge waste of everyone’s time,” she added.

But Harvard’s Director of Community Relations for Boston Kevin A. McCluskey ’76 said that the University would be “aggressive” about dealing with problems proactively.

Amid disagreements between residents and University planners, Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Thomas J. Tinlin emphasized that the neighborhood’s voice in the dialogue surrounding the construction of the science complex would ensure the well-being of the area.

“Community process is so important with all development, big and small,” he said. “It’s what holds developers and the city accountable for keeping what happens to our neighborhoods to a minimum.”

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