Residents Criticize Allston Master Plan

Harvard Allston Task Force calls for more details from the University

Members of the Harvard Allston Task Force criticized the University’s master plan for expansion into the Boston neighborhood over the next 50 years for being too vague at a meeting last night.

The task force, which is comprised of mayor-appointed residents, distributed a letter that enumerated their objections and described the proposed plan as “a vague draft that fails to address community quality of life issues.”

The letter also called for improvements that include public transportation, constructive impact mitigation, and more open spaces.

“The master plan really doesn’t tell us a lot about what Harvard plans to do with Barry’s Corner or anything else,” Task Force chairman Ray Mellone said, referring to the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue, which Harvard plans to revitalize. “Nor does it tell us how they will ensure that the campus is not an isolated concept but part of the wider community.”

The city of Boston requires large institutions to submit an institutional master plan, a long-term proposal for extensive developments. Residents then have time to comment on the proposal before the institution is given approval for individual projects. The deadline for community comment is April 25.

Senior Project Manager for the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) Gerald Autler said that residents bear part of the responsibility for ensuring that development proceeds according to their wishes.

“The more they know about what you want, the more in which they can know the parameters in which they can propose alternatives,” said Autler, whose agency is charged with overseeing development projects.

But several task force members said they felt that Harvard had ignored their suggestions in the past.

“At the end of the day, the real question is if any of this is going to do any good and if the BRA is going to go to bat for us,” Task Force member Brent Whelan said. “Are you guys interested in Harvard becoming a more responsible partner, or are we just going to deal with them the way they are?”

Autler said that the BRA would make sure that their needs were considered.
“We have regulatory power over them,” he said. “They’re not going to be able to do anything until we approve their plan.”

The University is expected to submit its final proposal—which will be accompanied by a community benefits package—in September.

No representatives from Harvard were present at yesterday’s meeting.

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