Innovation Lab Approved By BRA

After months of deliberation and planning, the Boston Redevelopment Authority—which oversees the City’s development projects—unanimously approved Harvard’s plan to replace the currently vacated WGBH radio station building with an Innovation Lab.

The $20 million I-Lab will provide a space where local businesses, non-profits, entrepreneurs, and University affiliates can discuss and realize their business plans through collaboration and coaching.

“The Innovation Lab is an entirely new model for Harvard. It is an innovation in and of itself,” said Gabe Handel, the managing director of the Harvard Business School Dean’s office.

The Small Business Administration, Service Corps of Retired Executives, Center for Women & Enterprise, and Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network will work with the I-Lab to provide coaching, counseling, and workshops.

“We are thrilled that this incredible resource is coming to Allston,” wrote BRA spokesperson Susan Elsbree in an email. “Boston, our local businesses, neighbors, and the entire region will benefit from the programs and resources that Harvard University will provide through this lab.”

The I-Lab is equipped with a coffee shop and a 24/7 public meeting space, and will host networking events, presentations, and lectures for residents, small business owners, faculty, and students across Harvard’s schools. Harvard will provide transportation to and from the Lab.

“For Harvard to offer their services in any way they can to the surrounding community benefits anyone,” said Jason Patnode, the incoming president of the Brighton Board of Trade. “The help people might not otherwise be able to receive will be great.”

President Drew G. Faust wrote in a letter to Allston-Brighton residents that the Lab, slated to open in September, supports Mayor Thomas Menino’s “innovation agenda” intended to find new community solutions through interdisciplinary collaboration.

“I think it’s a good plus to the community because there’s a component that will be available to people who want to take advantage of those services,” Allston Task Force Chair Ray Mellone said.

Mellone, though retired himself, said he could envision the advantages it will provide the community.

The Lab will occupy 125 Western Ave., sitting almost directly across from the now paved-over five-acre plot that was intended for the Science Complex, a project now indefinitely halted due to financial constraints.

“It will invite the community and the academic constituencies of Harvard to learn and work together,” wrote Handel in an email. “Harvard has powerful incentives for ensuring that community members participate in the Innovation Lab’s programs.”

—Staff writer Nathalie R. Miraval can be reached at nmiraval@college.harvard.edu.

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