Local residents who provide input on Harvard’s expansion into Allston as Members of the Harvard Allston Task Force say they are disappointed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s community support during the planning process.
The Task Force voiced the concerns at a Wednesday meeting convened to discuss the University’s recently approved recommendations for its next step in Allston.
The recommendations, published by the since-dissolved Harvard Allston Work Team, include plans for a 700,000-square-foot Health and Life Science Center on Western Ave. and an Enterprise Research Campus on Allston Landing North, slated to be a 36-acre mecca for research.
Task Force members said the BRA, the agency that oversees city development projects, has unfairly promoted Harvard’s expansion rather than ensuring the community’s quality of life.
“BRA, I thought you stood behind us and I’m so disappointed in your performance,” Task Force member Bruce Houghton said.
Task Force member Cathi Campbell said the group is willing to work with Harvard as it develops its property in the neighborhood.
“But any balance available in the process has been lost,” she said.
Members said that the BRA has underrepresented the community and left them lost about whom to turn to for community support.
“It’s always been to me about how businesses, institutions, and the city can work together to make a better neighborhood,” Houghton said. “I don’t have any convincing feel that this process does that at all.”
Ray Mellone, chair of the task force, echoed Houghton’s sentiments.
“I cannot see how we can do our job of reporting to the community without any control over the situation,” Mellone said.
Michael F. Glavin, the BRA’s deputy director for institutional development, said at the meeting that the BRA hears residents’ concerns and that Harvard’s developments affect not only Allston, but all of Boston.
“I would hope we don’t walk away here defeated, but challenged,” Glavin said. “It will become the envy of the entire country if we get this right.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, a representative of Elkus Manfredi Architects, a firm working with Harvard, also presented plans to host three or four community meetings to gain input on a development proposal expected to be submitted in March.
But some Task Force members were not convinced that additional meetings would lead to the implementation of community benefits, saying residents still lacked official power over Harvard’s proceedings. The Work Team that drew up the plans for Harvard’s development consisted only of 14 University affiliates, one member noted.
Task force members also pointed to a recent recommendation to extend the lease on the locally-popular Ed Portal by four years, which the University has thus far declined.
“Who said no? Was it Lady Lapp?” Bruce said, referring to University Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, who is heading the University’s development in Allston along with University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 and other officials.
“There is a new regime, and frankly, it scares the hell out of us,” Mellone said. “The scale and the scope of what’s about to happen to us is way over our heads.”
—Staff writer Nathalie R. Miraval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org