Harvard-Allston Task Force Discusses Housing, Construction

UPDATED: April 21, 2015, at 4:40 a.m.

The Harvard-Allston Task Force met on Wednesday to discuss the North Allston/North Brighton Housing Stabilization Program, ongoing construction and demolitions at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences complex and Charlesview apartments, and the renewal of Everett Street.

At the meeting—the first in more than 100 days–Allston residents also brought up perennial concerns about construction workers parking in their neighborhoods.

Harvard-Allston Task Force Meeting
Representatives from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, left, including Gerald Autler addressed members of the Harvard-Allston Task Force during its first meeting in over 100 days on April 8 to discuss the North Allston/North Brighton Housing Stabilization Program, ongoing construction and demolitions at the SEAS complex and Charlesview apartments, and the renewal of Everett Street.

The task force was created in 2006 and serves as a liaison between Harvard, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and the residents of the Allston neighborhood of Boston.

BRA senior project manager Gerald Autler and Val Frias, an associate director at the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, presented the task force with an update on the housing program, which is intended to stabilize the Allston housing market by promoting long-term homeownership. The ABCDC will use $3 million contributed by Harvard’s community benefits package, along with an additional up to $5 million in credit from the Boston Community Loan Fund, to buy 13 properties over two years and resell them on the condition that the owners live on their properties as long as they own them.

“One of the great concerns the task force and many in the community had…was the fact that so many properties in the neighborhood are being bought by investors,” Autler said. Allston residents have said that cash-paying investors seeking to rent out properties purchase newly available houses before potential homeowners have the chance to make a bid.

Directly preceding the task force meeting, Autler also presented on the reconstruction of Everett Street. The first phase of the long-awaited project, funded by the City of Boston and a $500,000 contribution from Harvard, will see the installation of new concrete sidewalks, granite curbs, street trees, and stormwater infrastructure from North Beacon Street up to Western Avenue. Autler projected work to start on the project around July.

“I think we have a great opportunity with [the $5.35 million Public Realm] Flexible Fund to look at some of the other improvements that might be made here…[such as] some sort of public art along the street,” Autler said.

Harvard-Allston Task Force Meeting
Harvard Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Kevin Casey speaks during the first meeting of the Harvard-Allston Task Force in over 100 days.

Harvard Public Affairs and Communications Associate Vice President Kevin Casey updated Allston residents on construction projects discussed at a recent Allston Construction Mitigation Subcommittee meeting. Casey reported that the foundation of the SEAS complex is currently undergoing enabling work, despite the lack of finalized architectural plans. He added that regulatory and community review is slated for fall 2015, with construction commencing by mid-2016.

Casey also provided an update of the University’s demolition projects in North Allston, reporting that the Brookline Machine demolition was almost complete and that six out of seven Charlesview apartment buildings are already down.

Subcommittee attendees such as Allston resident Paul “Chip” Alford expressed concerns that Harvard’s construction worker parking program, though effective, was not properly enforced. Alford called for checks six times a week, which he said would be far more frequent than the two weekly random spot checks done at the moment.

“We the committee backed off calling [the Boston Transportation Department] so [Harvard’s] program could be enforced,” added subcommittee co-chairman Ed Kotomori, who said residents would now be referring parking violations once again to the BTD. “The tickets are going to start coming every single day—in two hour parking spots, BTD’s going to be there.”

—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

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 21, 2015

An earlier version of this article misspelled Paul “Chip” Alford's last name.

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