Skating Club, Harvard Land Swap Draws Criticisms from Allston-Brighton Residents

Harvard has agreed with to swap two properties in Brighton with the Skating Club of Boston, pending approval by the Boston Redevelopment Authority Board.

Allston-Brighton residents met Tuesday with the Skating Club administrators and representatives from Colliers International, the developer managing the proposed project, to discuss plans to move The Skating Club from its current location on Soldiers Field Road to a Harvard-owned property down Everett Street.

Allston-Brighton residents comprising an Impact Advisory Group, which will advise the BRA, voiced concerns over the scale of the proposed Skating Club facility and the impact it will have on the neighborhood.

“It’s too big for the lot, and it’s too big for the area,” resident Don Laffey said during the meeting. “This thing is going to change the neighborhood forever.”

The $45 million project would involve 153,000 square feet of construction to create a three-rink facility at 176 Lincoln St. Harvard will demolish the vacant technology building standing on the 5.2-acre site before Colliers International commences construction. The Skating Club, founded in 1912, currently occupies a single rink built in 1938 at the 1240 Soldier’s Field Road location west of Harvard Stadium that the University would get in the swap.

The new Skating Club facility will hold between six and ten annual events that will draw as many as 2,000 people, according to Yanni Tsipis, senior vice president of Colliers International. Residents expressed concern over the increased congestion and pressure on parking that these events would bring. The proposed site will include 200 spaces of on-site parking.

Tsipis proposed several strategies to mitigate the effects the Skating Club’s events might have on parking, including providing shuttles to nearby public parking garages and subway stations as well as funding a traffic-calming study for the already congested Lincoln St.

Resident Paul Berkeley, however, said that these strategies would not do enough to solve the parking problem.

“I don’t believe it’s the responsibility of the neighborhood to solve their parking problems,” Berkeley said. “If they’re going to create parking problems, the solution should be coming from them.”

Resident Jane McHale said that the Skating Club could take advantage of Harvard’s large landholdings in Allston-Brighton to alleviate parking overflow.

“The fact is that Harvard has 400 acres—maybe more—of property in our neighborhood,” McHale said. “They are behind this move, and I just don’t understand why Harvard is not here.”

Tsipis stressed that while Harvard will demolish the existing property on the Lincoln St. site, the move was fundamentally the Skating Club’s project.

Elected officials from Allston-Brighton submitted a comment letter to the BRA expressing their disapproval of the size of the project, advocating for a two-rink site instead of three, according to resident Craig Cashman. Developers responded that they are confident that there is demand for three rinks and said that expanding capacity leads to more community programming and attracts families to the neighborhood.

Tsipis requested support from the IAG as the Skating Club and its developer prepare the project to go before the BRA board on May 15. Harvard has not informed the IAG of any potential plans for the current Skating Club site after the proposed land swap.

—Staff writer Karl M. Aspelund can be reached at karl.aspelund@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kma_crimson.

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

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