City Planners Present Allston Framework

Discussion concerned long-term development rather than University involvement

Boston city planners presented Allston residents and University developers with a long-term conceptual framework for neighborhood development at last night’s North Allston-Brighton Community-Wide Planning meeting where they discussed issues ranging from public transportation to open spaces and street-side commercial development.

The CWP process, which addresses development issues in Allston not limited to Harvard’s expansion, has been conducted internally since late fall as city officials focused on the University’s future institutional plans and decision to slow construction in Allston due to financial constraints.

Officials from the Boston Redevelopment Authority—the city’s powerful planning and development agency—said at the meeting that the CWP process is entering a new planning and implementation phase, after having been dominated by theoretical brainstorming and discussion last year.

Kairos Shen, the BRA’s chief planner, said that last night’s meeting was aimed at providing a broad framework for the upcoming CWP process.

“[The process] is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together,” Shen said. “This [meeting] is the box of the jigsaw puzzle—we want to make sure the puzzle is going in the right direction.”

The next meeting, to take place next month, will focus on specific plans for improving the Holton Street Corridor, which stretches from the Brighton Mills shopping center on Western Ave. to the Mass. Turnpike, Shen said.

Armed with a lengthy PowerPoint presentation and an array of colorful maps of Allston, BRA Chief Architect Bob Kroin laid out a series of plans to address what he said were the three main goals distilled from previous CWP discussions: increasing the Charles River’s accessibility to Allston, connecting currently disparate neighborhoods with green pathways and street networks, and aggregating commercial and cultural activity along Western Ave. at several focal points.

Tad Read, a senior planner for the BRA, followed Kroin’s presentation by describing possible improvements to public transportation in Allston. These included the construction of an MBTA commuter rail station at the southern edge of the neighborhood as well as the development of a circular rapid bus transit system around Boston that would improve Allston’s already-extensive bus network.

Kroin emphasized that none of the ideas presented at the meeting were set in stone and that the BRA hoped the plans would inspire further community discussion and input. Following the presentations, meeting attendees split into three breakout discussion groups to discuss their ideas and concerns more closely with BRA officials.

Harry Mattison, a local resident and a Harvard Allston Task Force member, said after the meeting that while the presentation was intended to be a broad overview, he would rather the BRA focus more on specific development issues such as the Charlesview apartment relocation and not plans that “may or may not happen in 10 or 20 years.”

But Sal Pinchera, another Allston resident, said that Mattison’s view is short-sighted, and that the current CWP framework is helpful in bringing together diverse neighborhood viewpoints.

“I like to think about 10 or 20 years out, even if I might not be here. We need to think about the people that come after us and look at the long-term,” Pinchera said.

—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at pzhu@fas.harvard.edu.