Allston Task Force Approves Benefits Package

The Harvard-Allston Task Force voted to approve the University’s proposed community benefits package attached to Harvard’s Institutional Master Plan for development in Allston Wednesday evening. The community benefits package will be presented to the Boston Redevelopment Authority along with the IMP at a Boston Zoning Commission assessment on Nov. 20.

The package totals $43 million that will fund improvements to open spaces and the public realm, education programming as well as funding for renovations at a local school, workforce development programming, and a ‘transformative project’. $11 million in linkage funds the University must pay to the City of Boston are also included in the $43 million package.

Task force members voted ten to one with one abstention to approve the package despite Harvard’s unwillingness to add an additional three million dollars requested by the task force. The task force proposed that the three million dollars in funds could be used for an expansion of funding for flexible projects. These projects include housing developments and school renovations, as well as the creation of more open spaces and the allocation of $500,000 for security equipment for the local division of the Boston Police Department.

Kevin Casey, Harvard’s associate vice president for public affairs and communications, said that “the tank was dry” in terms of adding to the package’s proposed dollar amount. Instead of debating the amount of funding, Casey said that the conversation should turn to implementing the available funds.

Task force members said it was important to maintain flexibility within the community benefits package, so that funding could adapt to potentially unforeseen needs.

In addition, many task force members suggested greater funding be allocated to developing housing and supporting home ownership in the community.

“In my mind, [what’s important] is developing a viable middle-income residential community,” said Ray V. Mellone, task force chairman.

Mellone added that funding from the community benefits package could be “a way to take this first step of transformation into the future.”

Despite the task force’s approval of the package, some members of the community said they were unsure about how much Allston residents would benefit.

“Three quarters of this community has been impacted horribly [from Harvard’s construction], yet I’m not seeing anything come back to the community at all,” Allston resident Ed Kotomori said. “If we are not going to spread the funds to benefit all of the people, then we’re failing entirely.”

Task force member Bruce Houghton said that community benefits in the package should be implemented as soon as possible.

“Harvard has created and will create a great deal of disruption,” Houghton said. “I think it owes this community the respect to front-load as much development in the public realm as possible.”

Casey and members of the task force agreed to work together to identify the benefits that will be implemented first.

Task force member Tim McHale said that last night represented the end of a long process. Following the Zoning Commision, the task force will convene with University officials to finalize the language of an official contract.

Thanking the task force, Harvard, and the community, McHale said, “For the last 120 days we have put a lot of blood sweat and tears into this process.”

—Staff writer Marco J. Barber Grossi can be reached at mbarbergrossi@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @marco_jbg.

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