Harvard Pauses Allston Construction

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Cara K. Fahey

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CORRECTION APPENDED

Harvard will pause construction of the Allston Science Complex in early spring 2010 after the structure's foundation is completed but before the building would be ready for tenants, according to a letter sent by University President Drew G. Faust to the community early Thursday afternoon.

The decision was based on the "altered financial landscape of the University, and the wider world," which "necessitates a shift away from rapid development in Allston," according to the letter.

The pause follows Harvard's announcement last February that it would slow construction of the Science Complex while it examined various options and timelines for completing the project. Allston residents criticized the University at the time for halting construction while Harvard-owned properties in Allston sat vacant.

The Allston Science Complex is the first component of Harvard's ambitious 50-year plan to construct a campus across the river and was intended to serve as a hub for stem cell research and interdisciplinary science. Faust's letter wrote that the delay in construction would "in no way slow Harvard's significant momentum in the life sciences."

Even before Thursday's announcement that the slowdown would soon become a halt, construction delays had created difficulties for some Harvard scientists, as it became clear that promised space in Allston would not be ready on schedule. In particular, stem cell researchers who had planned on moving into the Allston Science Complex were instead relocated to the Sherman-Fairchild building in Cambridge, displacing Molecular and Cellular Biology faculty and causing tensions with administrators.

The letter emphasized that that the University would continue its "commitment to a program of active stewardship in Harvard properties." Faust's letter announced a new plan for Harvard's presence in Allston, consisting of three phases—"property stewardship and community engagement; campus planning and greening; and campus development."

The first phase will involve Harvard leasing out 100,000 square feet of its property in Allston that had previously been reserved for "construction support." It will also work to make its properties more attractive by "investing in upgrades and improvements" in the properties it currently owns.

Additionally, the University will extend short-term lease contracts and engage real estate brokers to "reach more potential tenants for Allston properties." Faust also emphasized that this first phase will also involve the continued development of the University's public service programs in the neighborhood.

The second phase of development in Allston will involve greening the community, through the completion of Library Park--a public park for the neighborhood.

General campus development in Allston, the third and final phase of the new plan, will occur "as resources allow and only after a targeted evaluative process that will begin next month."  The process will be led by a new guided Work Team "with expertise in design, urban planning, business strategy, real estate development, and public policy." The committee will include Peter Tufano, the senior associate dean for Planning and University Affairs at Harvard Business School, Bill Purcell, the head of the Institute of Politics and the former mayor of Nashville, TN, and Alex Krieger, chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Graduate school of Design.

CORRECTION

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of the Dec. 10 news article "Harvard Pauses Allston Construction" incorrectly stated that molecular and cellular biology faculty were displaced from the Northwest Science Building. In fact, these faculty members were forced to move from the Sherman-Fairchild building and into the Northwest Science Building.

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