Harvard Officials, Allstonians Discuss New Arts Facilities

Harvard officials unveiled the details of a plan to build a 9,000-square foot space for University-related arts activities—dubbed the "ArtLab"—to Allston residents at a Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting Thursday evening.

The ArtLab is part of the “innovation ecosystem” that Harvard is building in Allston, University spokesperson Kevin Casey said.

"It will be an experimental, flexible work space for faculty and students artists,” he said.

After formally announcing the plans last month, the University filed a procedural notification form with the Boston Planning and Development Agency on Nov. 2 as part of the approval process. The amendment detailed the project dimensions and building uses, along with its “community benefits.”

One benefit the University has promised is a $10,000 contribution annually for five years as part of the City of Boston’s Cultural Council Opportunity Fund program. The other initiative is a commitment to collaborate with the Ed Portal and to deliver three to six public programs tailored to the “Allston-Brighton community" per year for a minimum of five years.

Harvard spokesperson Mark Handley said he hopes these benefits will add to the success of the ArtLab.

“It would allow Allston-Brighton residents to receive more funding when applying to the grants at the city,” Handley said.

While Casey said the University will continue to integrate Allston into the functions of the ArtLab, it is unclear if Harvard will continue to roll out benefits after the five year period expires. Bruce E. Houghton, a member of the Harvard-Allston Task Force Committee, criticized Harvard for not committing to benefits that last longer at the meeting Thursday evening.

“We’d like to see the benefits timeline be cohesive with the lifetime of the building,” Houghton said. According to Casey, the ArtLab building will be temporary, with an expected lifetime of ten to fifteen years.

This is the fourth amendment that Harvard has filed to the Institutional Master Plan—the University’s blueprint for its Allston developments—since it was first approved in 2013. The first and third amendments involved structural changes to the Science and Engineering Complex while the second amendment added the Life Lab, which opened last November.

The amendment also includes updates to a Business school pavilion; a project first approved two years ago. The new structure, called the Business School Commons Pavilion, will be limited to just one story and will include an outdoor open air space.

Construction for the ArtLab is scheduled to begin in March 2018, and the building will be open for occupancy in January 2019.

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