New Architects for Barry's Corner Present to Allston Residents

Harvard presented Samuels & Associates, Harvard’s real estate partner for the Barry’s Corner Retail and Housing Commons project, to Allston residents Wednesday. The presentation, made during a Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting, reflected further progress on the part of the University as it resumes its development in the neighborhood.

Joel Sklar and Leslie Cohen represented Samuels & Associates on Wednesday night, telling residents that their company is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of the community, creating a more vibrant street-level, and respecting the existing neighborhood.

Cohen said that in the Barry’s Corner project, like in all Samuels and Associates’ mixed-use projects, they will “start from the streetscape and build up.”

“We will look at the uses that we need to activate the street, to activate the community,” said Cohen. She said that they will look to weave Barry’s Corner Retail and Housing Commons into the fabric of the community.

Barry’s Corner is one leg of Harvard’s plan to create an academic hub in North Allston, which includes the construction of a state-of-the-art science research facility. Harvard officials have said that the University hopes the Commons, comprised of apartments and retail businesses, will bring Harvard closer to realizing its goal of transforming Western Ave.—the street on which the Commons and science center will sit—into a “main street” environment.

Harvard resumed planning in late 2011, nearly two years after University President Drew G. Faust halted construction due to financial constraints caused by the 2008 economic recession. Harvard announced earlier this month that it plans to resume construction in 2014.

During the presentation, Cohen and Sklar described Samuels & Associates’ work on three other relevant building projects—The Fenway Triangle, The Mecca at Grove Hall, and The Launch at Hingham Shipyard.

The presentation detailed feedback and requests on potential development from Allston residents, such as “create a mix of unit types and sizes,” and “establish connections between the grove of trees and Smith Field.”

“We are really taking our cues from the BRA work session with the task force and really from the feedback we are getting here we are going go back and role up our sleeves and get to work and come back with some ideas,” said Cohen.

Cohen and Sklar concluded the presentation by emphasizing their willingness to listen to the community’s opinions of the Barry’s Corner complex.

Task Force member and resident Brent C. Whelan ’73 said that despite some concerns about the nature of the project, he found Samuels & Associates "to be genuinely interested in talking to the community about their plans.”

Whelan said that he thinks the mixed used housing project planned for Barry’s Corner is “relatively high end," a result of a project which, Whelan believes, is driven by profit.

“Their idea of the public is narrow,” Whelan said of references to the “public” in the presentation. He said that the "public" should be defined as the community as a whole rather than simply the residents in the new mixed-use housing.

The proposal for mixed-use housing at Barry’s Corner would allow members of the general public to rent units at market rate.

Harry E. Mattison, a Task Force member and Allston resident, also raised concern that mixed-use housing would segregate the community by including facilities that would not available to other Allston Residents.

“It sounded like a gated community with private, resident-only services” he said.

At the meeting’s end, Kevin Casey, Harvard's associate vice president for public affairs and communications, also discussed two possible relocation options for tenants that currently work at 219 Western Avenue including a Harvard Ceramics Program. No final decisions have been made.

Casey said that relocating the program would make way for the Commons’ new mixed-use housing and enhance the “pedestrian environment” of Barry’s Corner.

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

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