University Leaders Present New Plan for Allston

Harvard administrators have proposed a new plan for the Barry’s Corner Housing and Retail Commons, which would shift the complex’s center across the intersection from its originally-planned location.

At the Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting on Wednesday, Boston Redevelopment Authority officials presented the plans, which Harvard had submitted prior to the meeting, to residents and Task Force members.

The altered plans would facilitate the creation of more “pedestrian pathways,” said David L. Grissino, a senior architect for the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Grissino added that he thinks that the change “could lead to a richer center for Barry’s corner.” The BRA also gave more specifics about the plan for the plot of land it owns abutting the Harvard athletic facility and the Education Portal, saying that the University is considering building a medium-sized basketball venue on the site.

After the presentation, meeting attendees broke into small groups—an unusual practice for Task Force meetings—so that individuals could discuss questions and concerns about the plan with University and BRA officials.

In their small groups, residents seemed to prefer the newly proposed plan over past ideas.

“I think [the development] has a stronger foundation with this plan,” Cusack said, adding that he thinks the new plan has more potential to bring in helpful retail and businesses.

But the presentation and break out session were preceded by nearly 45 minutes of criticism of Harvard’s planning process.

“I just think we need to be clear that you’re not in fact incorporating the community’s comments, and you shouldn’t tell us that you are when you’re not,” said Task Force member Brent C. Whelan ’73, “Just be honest.”

Whelan’s comments struck directly at the University’s claims that, as it embarks on its second round of Allston development, Harvard will ensure residents’ voices are included.

In the University’s 2007 Institutional Master Plan for Allston development, the University proposed transforming Barry’s Corner into a “main street” environment. However, Harvard halted its Allston projects when University funding dried up during the 2009 recession. After resuming planning in December 2011, the University has engaged in what it has called a “revolutionary” open process for Barry’s Corner, soliciting feedback from the community while devising plans.

But Kevin Casey, associate vice president for public affairs and communication, maintained that Harvard has understood and taken into account the community’s concerns while selecting a third-party developer for Barry’s Corner Housing and Retail Commons.

“We definitely heard the community’s concerns and tried to take those into account when developing selection criteria for a developer,” Casey said.

Other Allston residents praised Harvard’s open process, saying the community’s voice does play a role in Harvard’s decision making. Task Force member John Bruno, one of two community members serving on

Harvard’s internal selection committee for a developer for Barry’s Corner, defended the University’s claims of community engagement.

“I walked away with a feeling that there was truly, maybe for the first time, internal cooperation between the University and the community,” Bruno said.

The University plans to announce its development partner in June, Casey said.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

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