Allston Residents Concerned Over McDonald's Relocation

A proposal to relocate Western Avenue's McDonald’s 75 feet from its current Harvard-owned location in the Brighton Mills shopping center has raised neighborhood concerns about the street’s long-term development.

“For quite some time now, there has been an agreement between the city, Harvard, and resident that in order to turn Western Ave. into a thriving Main Street district you need to build multi-story structures,” said Allston resident Harry E. Mattison. “The proposed one-story McDonald’s, however, completely contradicts the type of development and construction Harvard and the city have been preaching for years.”

Along with Harvard and McDonald’s, the Community Builders -- the firm in charge of developing the new Charlesview residence on land currently owned by Harvard, including the parcel occupied by Brighton Mills -- filed an amendment with the Boston Redevelopment Authority on July 29 to move the McDonald’s at 360 Western Avenue east and closer to the street to accommodate the extension of Telford Street.

The proposal extends Telford Street, which currently connects Western Avenue and Soldiers Field Road, across Western Avenue and through the future site of the Charlesview residence, making the residence complex more accessible, according BRA spokesperson Jessica Shumaker. Shumaker notes that an elongated Telford Street would create a route for automobiles and pedestrians to access the future Charlesview complex and the Charles River.

Residents worried at a BRA meeting last week that the proposed one-story building would detract from Western Avenue’s potential to become the bustling “Main Street” promised by Harvard and city officials.

“I like a Big Mac as much as everybody else,” said Allston resident Tim McHale at the meeting. “But does it [McDonald’s new design] really look like our community plan [for Western Avenue]?”

McDonald’s long-term lease guarantees the corporation’s property rights to its Western Avenue location, according to Shumaker. Both company and Harvard officials said the new location's design has been devised in consideration with the long-term plans for development of a “Main Street” environment on Western Avenue.

Through a community wide planning process, Harvard joined together with neighborhood residents, city officials and planners to draft the BRA’s proposal in 2005 to include improved public transportation, better access to Charles River, and a commercial "Main Street" on Western Avenue. Since the University halted construction on the Allston Science Complex last December, Harvard officials have maintained that the University’s commitment to the 2005 framework as a guide for Harvard’s expansion into Allston.

“McDonald’s, a fixture on Western Avenue since 1983, has been working with Harvard University and the BRA to redesign the restaurant... to create a pedestrian friendly neighborhood and a distinct streetscape on Western Avenue,” wrote McDonald’s spokesman Glen Gracia in an e-mailed statement.

Gracia noted that McDonald’s added extra entrances, an exterior dining patio and bike racks to better fit the University’s and BRA’s vision for Western Avenue.

Through a land swap deal with the University, the Charlesview Board of Directors plans to move residents out of the current Charlesview residence complex, comprised of 213 aging low-income housing units located across from the University's Allston Science Complex construction site, to a yet-to-be constructed neighborhood approximately half mile away.

“The proposal will bring Charlesview residents closer to the day when they will enjoy new and improved housing,” added University spokesperson Lauren Marshall in an e-mailed statement, noting that relocating McDonald’s is a preparatory step in the process of building the new Charlesview residence.

A second community meeting will be held on Thursday, September 7 at 6:30 at the Honan Allston-Brighton Library.

-Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at tmerrigan@college.harvard.edu.

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