Harvard Nears Deal With Allston

With the signing of an agreement that will allow the University to begin construction on the first project across the river only days away, Allston officials say they hope Harvard will continue to provide the neighborhood with benefits after the ink on the pact has dried.

“In all fairness to [Harvard], we’ve made enormous progress in communication and commitments recently,” said State Representative Michael J. Moran. “But we have a ways to go, and it’s my opinion that they could always do more.”

Late last month, Harvard increased the dollar amount of benefits that will accompany the construction of its 589,000-square foot science complex from $21 million to nearly $24 million.

Those funds will be funneled into free math and science tutoring, workforce and employee development programs, and the creation of two neighborhood parks, in addition to other benefits.

But Moran said that he hopes more substantive benefits will be offered as Harvard continues expanding into Allston over the next 50 years.

In early January, Moran, State Senator Steven A. Tolman, State Representative Kevin G. Honan, and Boston City Councillor Mark S. Ciommo authored a letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority—the city agency that oversees development projects—that outlines revisions to the current agreement.

Some of the proposed changes are full employment of Allston workers in construction projects, the creation of a Harvard-funded community school, and the expansion of tutoring services to include writing and the arts.

“We’ve made huge strides with Harvard in making them understand that they have certain commitments to the residents who will live with the impact their construction is going to have,” Moran said. “We will continue to make sure that these residents are compensated for those impacts.”

Harry Mattison, who is a member of the mayor-appointed Harvard Allston Task Force, said that he hopes a deeper discussion of benefits will take place now that the construction of the science complex is almost underway.

“The science complex was like a forced march in that there was really no time to talk about bigger issues and goals,” he said, referring to the fact that the building went through a special review process. “Now that we’re in the master planning stage, hopefully there will be more discussion instead of structured debate.”

Harvard’s Director of Community Relations for Boston Kevin A. McCluskey ’76 said that the University will continue to work with the neighborhood for years to come.

“Our respectful conversations with the local elected officials will continue as we develop a master plan,” he said. “Our approach has been, historically, to try to explore as many ways as possible to strengthen the relations between Harvard and the Allston neighborhood.”

The University expects to file its 50-year master plan to the city in September.

—Staff writer Nan Ni can be reached at nni@fas.harvard.edu.