Harvard To Resume Allston Science Center Development in 2014

Daniel M. Lynch

After construction was halted in December of 2009, Harvard announced that it will resume work on the Allston science center in 2014.

After halting construction on its Allston science center more than two years ago, Harvard announced on Wednesday that it will resume development in 2014.

The facility, which will be called the Health and Life Science Center, will house academic projects for stem cell science and engineering and physical sciences.

Douglas A. Melton, a co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and co-chair of the Harvard stem cell and regenerative biology department, added that this development "should lead to the kinds of collaborations and exciting advances, and interesting experiments in undergraduate teaching, that otherwise might not take place."

Previous plans for the science center included stem cell science, but the second component—engineering and physical sciences with application to biological and life sciences—is new.

“By allowing stem cell scientists and bioengineers with common goals to work literally side-by-side, in close proximity to the I-Lab and Business School, Harvard will be hastening the day discoveries in our labs can be moved into the clinic, where they will benefit patients,” Melton said in a statement.

Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Kevin Casey, who presented the plan at a Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting, told attendees that that the complex would likely be 500,000 to 600,000 square feet in size, providing office space for 500 scientists and an additional support staff.

Harvard halted construction in Allston in 2009 following a credit crunch caused by the 2008 recession. Allston planning restarted in December 2011.

According to Harvard Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, Harvard hopes to begin readying its Western Avenue site for construction towards the end of 2013.

"The Health and Life Science Center will represent the single largest investment in a science facility ever made by Harvard, and the biggest investment in science space envisioned for at least the next decade," Lapp wrote in a public update.

Harvard officials also updated Task Force members on the progress of its other efforts in Allston. University officials said that they will work with Boston-based Samuels & Associates to develop residential and retail spaces in Barry’s Corner, few blocks away from the future site of the Health and Life Science Center.

But at the meeting, residents still expressed concern over whether the complex will benefit Allston residents.

"It sounds to me as though the community is going to be squeezed out to a large extent," said Task Force member Brent C. Whelan ’73.

Whelan said that he fears that previously discussed plans for publicly available spaces in the science center will be removed without the consultation of Allston residents.

"Although the time frame appears to be lengthy, at least it appears to be starting up again,” Harvard-Allston Task Force Member John A. Bruno said. "There’s a ton of construction-related jobs that are going to create a domino effect into local businesses," he said.

Casey told residents that resumed construction on the science center is just the first step in the University’s plans to relaunch its development in Allston. "Our main goal was to get these projects going again and that means starting with the science and going from there," he said.

—Staff writer Alyza J. Sebenius can be reached at asebenius@college.harvard.edu.

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