Allston Residents Hope To Restart Conversation at Task Force Meeting

The Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting next Wednesday will mark the first time that the advisory body convenes in more than 100 days.

The task force was created in 2006 and is charged by the Boston Redevelopment Authority with liaising between the neighborhood of Allston, the City of Boston, and Harvard. It last met on Dec. 15.

Last year, residents voiced concerns that the task force, though productive, lacked the diversity and transparency necessary to truly represent the neighborhood.

Allston Home Damage
Homes in the Allston neighborhood of Boston.

According to a list of official topics on the BRA’s website, the April 8 meeting will focus on the continued implementation of Harvard’s Institutional Master Plan for development in Allston and the associated community benefits package. Topics will include community benefits such as the housing fund, the construction of Rena Park, and the demolition of the building on the Brookline Machine site.

The task force had met at least twice each month prior to last December, said task force member John A. Bruno. While he and the other volunteer members welcomed the break, Bruno said he is ready to restart the conversation with the City and the University.  

“The months from January to March were just horrible months to have any meetings, and it’s been a really long time since we’ve sat down and discussed issues,” Bruno said.

Brent C. Whelan ’73, another task force member, said he has a hard time predicting the issues that will be discussed, as a result of both the long hiatus since the task force last met and the lack of specificity in the agenda the BRA provides for the meeting.

Whelan expressed disappointment, however, that some large-scale components of Harvard’s development plans, such as the construction of the new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences complex, were rarely brought up at past task force meetings.

Bruno said he hopes to hear “some concrete ideas” on the development of the 0.7-acre Brookline Machine site that Harvard gave to Boston as part of its $43 million community benefits package for Allston and wanted to discuss “improved lighting, appropriate signage, and sidewalk improvements.”

When Harvard decided to donate the Brookline Machine site to the city, representatives from the University and the BRA, as well as various task members, supported the idea of building housing on the abandoned warehouse site.

Allston resident Galen Mook also expressed hopes that Harvard would “be a good neighbor” and participate in the community conversation. Mook said he hopes to see “a timeline that Harvard can commit to...and a guarantee that promises to the neighborhood would be kept.”

“Harvard can...use its corridor to reconnect us to the river and restitch Allston back together,” Mook concluded. “If Harvard takes that opportunity, it would be wonderful for everyone. This [meeting] is a step in the right direction to get the conversation going again.”

—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at ignacio.sabate@thecrimson.com . Follow him on Twitter @TheIggySabate.

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at luca.schroeder@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.

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