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Architect Presents Details of Allston Residential and Retail Project

Harvard Stadium’s reign as the tallest structure on the block may soon come to an end.

At the Harvard-Allston Task Force Meeting on Monday night, an architect laid out plans for a six-story mixed-use building—about 300 residential units above ground-level retail outlets—that would stand higher than the iconic birthplace of modern football, less than a thousand feet away.

“We are thinking about open space that blurs the line between public realm and private enterprise so you are expanding the sense of public ground,” said David P. Manfredi of Elkus Manfredi Architects as he presented a tentative plan for the Barry’s Corner Housing and Retail Commons project planned on Harvard-owned land in Allston. “We want ground floor space that spills out, storefronts that are open-able and operable.”

For comparison, Manfredi mentioned the Charles Square area on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, which hosts Legal Sea Foods in the summer and an ice rink in the winter.

The Barry’s Corner Commons project would arise on a lot at the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue, adjacent to Harvard’s McCurdy Track. The land is currently occupied by a parking lot and the semi-underground Harvard Ceramics Program building.

The proposal met mixed reviews from neighbors at the meeting. Several liked the idea of creating an “urban village center” and potentially creating space for a farmer’s market.

When the same land parcel was discussed in 2006, a hockey rink was on the table, but nothing of that size was mentioned this time around. But members of the audience voiced some of the same concerns as six years ago, focusing mostly on parking and safe traffic flow.

One member of the audience said that parking was hard to find as is and that he was worried it would only get harder after development. The current proposal includes two levels of parking to accommodate consumers and residents.

Other residents expressed worries about the potential ramifications of putting a large development at an already-complicated intersection. “I think they have a major safety problem with traffic that conceivably could create a lot of traffic problems stretching all the way down North Harvard [Street] and Western [Ave.],” Allston resident Ed A. Kotomori said at the meeting.

Some worried that due to the growth of online retail, the complex cannot support the suggested amount of storefronts. They suggested that more housing be included instead. But others thought the plan already called for too many housing units packed into too small a space.

“I have a real problem with the density of the project,” Task Force member Cathi Campbell said at the meeting. “There’s been a lot of pushback with the density people are seeing with the Charlesview project. I can’t go back to my neighbors and say I’m supporting something that’s of a larger scale.”

In response to concerns about retail, Joel Sklar of Samuels & Associates, a consulting firm brought in by Harvard two weeks ago solely for this property, said that “retail” should be defined broadly. The center will likely include a mix of establishments including entertainment and cultural venues, he said.

Kotomori and others also clamored to know more about the fate of the lot across the street, site of the soon-to-be-relocated Charlesview public housing project, which Harvard now also owns.

“The other thing bothering me is the unknown,” Kotomori said. “I think when all the neighbors here think about Barry’s Corner, we’ve got to look at the whole picture.”

In response, Harvard’s Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Kevin Casey said that at the next Task Force meeting, on Aug. 8, the University will discuss how Barry’s Corner fits into its broader master plan for Allston construction. He said the University will announce specific plans for the Charlesview site, which it has designated only for “institutional use,” when residents move into the new site in 2013.

—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at jacobfeldman@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:

CLARIFICATION: July 25

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article said Harvard Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Kevin Casey planned to discuss the University's use of the Charlesview apartment complex site at the upcoming Harvard-Allston Task Force Meeting on Aug. 8. Casey said that the University would discuss its master plan for its properties in Allston, not just the Charlesview lot.

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