Harvard Plan Criticized by Allston Residents

Allston residents criticized several details of Harvard’s Institutional Master Plan Notification Form—a draft of Harvard’s Institutional Master Plan for Allston development—Wednesday evening during a public meeting at the Business School.

The meeting combined an “Article 80 Public Meeting” with one of the regularly scheduled Harvard-Allston Task Force meetings.

The “Article 80 Public Meeting” was part of a 30-day comment period required by the Boston Redevelopment Authority following the filing of an IMPNF, during which community members are able to give feedback on the plan. According to BRA Senior Project Manager Gerald Autler, the BRA will incorporate resident feedback into the revisions it requires for Harvard’s final draft.

Several community members drew attention to Harvard’s unclear plan for a plot of land that sits just northeast of Barry’s Corner. The parcel, Harvard officials said, may serve as a parking lot during construction in Allston.

Brent C. Whelan ’73, an Allston resident and member of the Harvard-Allston Task Force, said that residents have already been living with an empty construction site and suggested that the plot be converted into a community garden for Allston residents and Harvard students.

“I think this is a terrible way to move forward,” Whelan said. “It feels to me that you’ve not succeeded in planning.”

Whelan and others also complained that Harvard had broken promises about benefits that it would provide to the community.

Harvard Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Kevin Casey argued otherwise.

“There is no evidence that Harvard has done anything other than abide by our cooperation agreement,” Casey said. “We’ve been moving forward on a lot of things at the same time.”

In 2007, the University filed its first plan for Allston development that included, among other proposals, the transformation of Barry’s Corner into a thriving “main street” and the construction of a $1 billion science complex.

However, Harvard halted its Allston development in 2009 due to financial constraints, a move which prompted an outcry from Allston residents.

In 2011, the University announced that it was resuming its planning for development in Allston, an announcement that was met with some skepticism from residents. However, tensions eased somewhat as the University formed more concrete designs for its Allston development, plans which the University formalized when it filed an IMPNF on Oct. 18.

Leslie G. Cohen, senior vice president for development at Samuels & Associates, kicked off the latter portion of the meeting with a presentation of plans for a mixed-used development at the Corner.

She explained that ground-floor retail, underground parking, and low- and mid-rise residential units had been designed with the goal of “creating a sense of identity and place in Barry’s Corner.”

Other residents were concerned that Harvard’s Ed Portal, which holds mentoring services for local children and other community events, will lose space and resources.

“We are committed to the Education Portal, and now the Ed Portal annex,” Casey said, referring to a recent addition to the center. “We do intend for that to be part of the secret sauce.”

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu.

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