Cambridge Planning Board Hears Local University Developments

University Annual Reports
Kerry M. Flynn

Community members and university affiliates listened to representatives from Harvard, MIT, and Lesley University as they presented their universities’ annual reports to the Cambridge City Planning Board.

Representatives from Harvard, MIT, and Lesley University presented development projects to the Cambridge Planning Board and community members Tuesday evening in Central Square.

Harvard Director of Planning Services Alexadra J. Offiong discussed 13 projects, including seven renovations of existing buildings.

“The type of project Harvard is focusing on is investing in our existing facilities—updating, re-purposing, and reusing,” she said.

Offiong focused on Harvard’s Cambridge-campus projects, but mentioned Allston and Boston developments in passing.

MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz highlighted the university’s recent transformations at University Park and in the radiation laboratory, both part of the “MIT 2030” plan.

“We don’t have 375 years like Harvard has, but 150 is pretty cool,” Ruiz said, noting its accomplishments.

Ruiz glossed over MIT’s controversial Kendall Square rezoning project, which faced criticism from the Cambridge City Council in September.

Following the presentation, City Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 critized MIT’s actions.

“One of our university partners has a very different way of developing and changing,” he said. “Every inch of MIT’s investment portfolio seems to be targeted at making as much money for the institute as they can.”

Lesley University Vice President of Administration Marylou Batt presented a three-year plan and efforts to connect its campuses. The university is currently waiting for court approval to relocate its Art Institute of Boston campus.

Local residents and Planning Board members commented on the university plans following the presentations.

Andrew Farrar, a Central Square resident who is president of the Cambridge Youth Soccer League, welcomed proposals for more public spaces by the universities, but said he was concerned by the lack of written reports on the subject.

“I would like to look at how the students of the college use open spaces that are available to them and think about the ways to improve these spaces,” he said.

Cambridge resident James Williamson questioned the status of Harvard projects, including the Cambridge Street overpass and Lars Anderson Bridge.

“Who from the city is involved in helping to shape whatever so called vision is being promoted there?” Williamson said.

Planning Board member Tom Anninger echoed citizen comments on accountability. MIT’s Kendall Square rezoning project is “the most difficult and most important” challenge for the city in the coming years, he said.

Yet Elaine Fisher, a Cambridge resident of over 50 years, said she didn’t harbor as many reservations.

“Sometimes they can be a little seedy, but I’m proud to have them here,” she said. “We just have to keep our eyes open.”

­­—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at kflynn@college.harvard.edu

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