“The buzz of Harvard’s master plan is very attractive to a lot of people,” she said.
Harvard has embarked on a ten-year institutional master plan in North Allston that will include 1.4 million square feet of new development and 500,000 square feet of renovations.
The projects within the IMP will parallel construction of a science complex on Western Ave. that will house the engineering school and a mixed-use development at Barry’s Corner including both residential and retail space that broke ground last December. Ridge-Martinez said that these development plans have played a role in driving increased investment interest in neighborhood properties.
Allston resident John Eskew similarly described the effect of Harvard’s development in Allston.
“Developers try to get ahead of that wave and that definitely drives up prices and pushes out the working class people,” he said.
With prices increasing, Ridge-Martinez said that the city and organizations such as the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation must develop strategies to allow lower-income families to stay in the neighborhood.
“We have a vision of Allston-Brighton as a mixed-income community,” she said. “Can we keep a placeholder for maintaining some of the character of the community?”
FINDING A BALANCE
While community members and city officials largely agree that the changes to Allston’s housing stock are eroding the cohesion of the community, a variety of strategies for addressing residents’ unease have been proposed involving both the city and the universities flanking the community.
“The community does not resent the students for living here,” Allston resident Richard Parr ’01 said. Instead, he said, homeowners and other residents are frustrated by absentee landlords who split up properties for transient populations and neglect their units.
Both Allstonians and city officials said that universities in the area have a responsibility to increase housing for their students. Students from BU and BC make up the majority of students renting in Allston, as Harvard students currently tend to cluster across the Charles River in Cambridge.
“The city of Boston has an interest in making sure universities provide as much on-campus housing as possible,” Swett said, adding that the city is working with universities both to promote on-campus living and to get information about where students are living off-campus to prevent overcrowding.
Swett also pointed to the Dec. 2012 establishment of a chronic offenders registry for Boston landlords who fail to correct issues on their properties as a recent development in combatting negligent landlords. Those on the registry, which is still in development, are subject to heavy fines. Swett hopes that universities will advertise the registry to their students once it is opened and in so doing help alleviate the most egregious problems with landlords.