Harvard Pays $147.3 Million to Finalize Allston Land Deal

UPDATED: December 7, 2016, at 1:14 a.m.

Harvard has paid railroad company CSX Transportation $147.3 million as one of the final steps of a land acquisition deal begun more than a decade ago.

In 2000, Harvard bought a 47-acre parcel of land—owned by CSX and known as Allston North Landing—for more than $150 million. The railroad company retained easement rights on almost 20 acres of that land, allowing CSX to temporarily continue railroad operations in the area. At the time of purchase, the properties held train tracks, as well as personnel and mechanical buildings.

SEAS Will Move to Allston Science Complex
Construction on the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences' new complex halted in 2009.

The structures themselves lie south of Harvard's current construction sites in the neighborhood, including its most ambitious project, the new complex for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

After Harvard’s recent payment, completed Nov. 17, CSX yielded its easement rights for the entire property to the University following environmental remediation, Harvard spokesperson Kevin Casey told Banker and Tradesman, a Boston-based weekly business publication.

“This closing represents another step in a series of events agreed to by CSX and Harvard in 2007 and unfolding since,” Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in an emailed statement. “Under the agreement, CSXT has relocated business operations, removed structures, conducted environmental testing and remediation necessary to meet Massachusetts standards and, finally, executed the closing late last month.”

In 2007, Harvard and CSX finalized plans to phase CSX facilities out of the area, as the company’s rail operations relocated to Westborough and Worcester, according to Casey. A year ago, the two formally reached a deal giving Harvard full rights to the site so that it could develop on all land formerly used by CSX.

Two-thirds of the SEAS faculty are slated to move across the Charles River in 2020.

Harvard has laid out a 10-year scheme for its Allston expansion in an Institutional Master Plan approved in 2013 by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, then the name for Boston’s urban planning body. The plan designates Allston Landing North as the site of both the $1 billion SEAS building and a new park. The park would comprise part of a “greenway” of parkland envisioned to connect Harvard’s Allston developments.

Allston resident Harry E. Mattison said he was pleased to hear of the new transaction between Harvard and CSX, though he emphasized he did not fully understand the terms of the agreement, which he deemed “very complicated.” He said he believes Allston residents are generally “excited” by Harvard’s planned developments on Allston North Landing.

“In general, I think it’s very exciting to think that acres of abandoned or underutilized land will have a productive future for the University and the neighborhood and the city and the state,” he said.

Mattison expressed concern, however, that the development process may proceed too slowly—a sentiment he said many Allstonians share.

“I think people hope that it happens sooner rather than later,” he said. “You know, in our lifetimes.”

–Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at hannah.natanson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: December 7, 2016

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences' new complex will lie on the 47-acre parcel. The complex will instead be along Western Avenue.

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