Members Raise Community Concerns at Allston Meeting

Area benefits, project communication and traffic among issues discussed

CORRECTION APPENDED

The Harvard Allston Task Force met once again on Monday to discuss traffic and construction issues, the planned science complex’s role in the community, and the effectiveness of communication between the task force, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), and the University.

The meeting attendees favorably discussed an alternate route—one that would not necessitate the use of city streets at all—for the trucks to take soil away when the contractors will begin to dig the foundation for the science complex.

“There is an abandoned rail tunnel that runs along Cambridge street, from the Mass Pike, over a pair of overpasses and under an abandoned tunnel,” said Harry Mattison, a member of the task force. “If you could physically connect that to the Mass Pike, then you’ll have direct access to the Science Complex.”

BRA representative Carlos J. Montanez also emphasized the importance of creating new, small streets. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

“At the water’s edge—if a private developer builds a path there, the implication is that it’s not public access,” Montanez said. “The solution is to build a street there, because if it is a street, it is public, and we can regulate it.” [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

Montanez said the creation of these streets to permeate the complex’s area is also key to diverting traffic during construction.

But task force member John Bruno expressed the concern that the meetings have not contributed significantly to altering the Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR) to suit the needs of the community.

“We’ve been getting information from Harvard, but in terms of any real discussion back and forth I do not believe that takes place substantively at all,” he said. “This task force has no authority except for the hopes and dreams that you [the BRA] are listening.”

Montanez said he promised to work to set up a more active dialogue in the time that is left to review the DPIR. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

“Maybe there is an assumption I have been making about a dialogue and a feedback loop that has not been occurring,” he said.

According to Montanez, Sept. 10 is the technical closing date for comments on the document, but amendments can still be made after that date. The DPIR will be approved or denied on Sept. 27, but, according to Montanez, “this discussion is not tied to the construction permit of the building.”  [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

The building contract, even if signed, will be a work in progress until the construction itself is completed.

Montanez said that while the next month and beyond will include a great deal of negotiations between the University, the BRA, and the task force, “there may be things that come up at the last moment. I think what we want to do is stay as open as communicative, but sometimes there will be executive decisions that have to be made.” [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

Some members of the task force said they were worried that too much of the discussion had centered around the construction and architectural aspects of the buildings, and not the relationship the buildings will have with the community.

“No meeting focused on starting to triage that very large list of possible community benefits,” Whelan said.

But according to Ray Mellone, the task force member who presided over the meeting, community benefits are as fluid as the architecural design itself, and creating a cohesive list of community benefits might not be feasible within the next 30 days.

“The creation of a middle class community will not end with one package of goals and benefits,” he said.

—Staff writer Yelena S. Mironova can be reached at mironova@fas.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: The Aug. 10 online news article "Members Raise Community Concerns at Allston Meeting" incorrectly attributed a set of remarks to Boston Redevelopment Authority senior planner Carlos J. Montanez. Montanez did not attend the meeting, and he did not deliver any of the remarks attributed to him in the story.
The speaker was, in fact, Kairos Shen, another Boston Redevelopment Authority representative.