Harvard-Allston Task Force Criticizes University for Not Providing Benefits

Members of the Harvard-Allston Task Force and other Allston residents criticized Harvard for what they called a failure to include sufficient benefits for the surrounding neighborhood in their development plans for Barry’s Corner at a meeting on Monday evening.

Around 65 people—including North Allston residents, Harvard communications staff, municipal authorities, and representatives of the firm charged with developing Barry’s Corner, Samuels & Associates—discussed parking and transportation plans for the site before turning to the question of its associated community benefits.

The Barry’s Corner development, which will include 325 residential units and 45,000 square feet of retail space and residential amenities, was originally scheduled to go before the Boston Redevelopment Authority in mid-March, but that date was pushed back to April 11 as the task force and Harvard struggled to agree on conditions for the University to move some of its campus services to 28 Travis St.

Leslie G. Cohen, senior vice president for development at Samuels & Associates, began the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation addressing previous concerns about how plans for the Barry’s Corner complex would accommodate increased traffic without burdening the surrounding neighborhood.

While some Allston residents expressed anxiety over the ratio of parking spaces to residents, Cohen said that the complex’s underground garage would be sufficient to satisfy residents’ parking needs without overflowing into the surrounding neighborhood.

The latter half of Monday’s meeting focused on the perceived lack of community benefits attached to the Barry’s Corner project. Some members of the task force argued that some benefits should be tied specifically to the Barry’s Corner project, instead of only to Harvard’s plans for Allston more broadly.

“There ought to be a community benefit package from this [project], and there ought to be for every building.” task force member Bruce E. Houghton said.

BRA Senior Project Manager Gerald Autler explained that Harvard would be asked to deliver community benefits that corresponds to its overall development in Allston.

“Our whole approach has been to get away from negotiating building-by-building,” Autler said.

Still, several task force members said that they were unsatisfied with leaving those benefits undetermined.

“[Barry’s Corner] is going to rise out of the Earth, and we’re going to have nothing to show for it,” task force chair and Allston resident Ray V. Mellone said.

After some discussion, task force members rallied around the idea of tying improvements of Smith Field, a park adjacent to the site of the planned development, to the development of Barry’s Corner.

BRA Chief Planner Kairos Shen said that the agency would explore language that could require a commitment from Harvard to renovate the field in order to receive BRA approval for the Barry’s Corner development. Shen and task force members agreed to try to come up with a provision by the time the project faces evaluation from the BRA.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.

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