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Very few people will be surprise at the announcement of the purchase by the University of the Boston Elevated Company's power plant at Boylston street and Memorial Drive. The building has so long been though of as Harvard's property, or at least as obtainable almost at will, that speculation has run rather on what might happen when it was gone. Now that its disappearance before Harvard's expansion southward has become a matter only of time, there arise two questions of prime importance: What to do with the riverfront which is now open for development, and where is now open for development, and where to locate a new power plant to serve the University.
The acquisition of the plant completes the crescent of Harvard's frontage on the Charles from Boylston street to Western Avenue on both sides of the river. The Western end of the crescent will be closed according to the official statement, by a new House to be built on the site of the power plant, adjacent to Smith Halls. But the development of the remainder of the Cambridge side of the river, below McKinlock Hall, must be governed by its remoteness from the greater part of the University. To build more Houses here for College undergraduates would be impractical considering the distances from Widener Library the Mallinckrodt Laboratory, and the Museum. Perhaps the disposal of this land must wait until the center of Harvard population has been definitely shifted south, away from the Yard.
Similarly, the opposite bank of the Charles may lie fallow until the growth around it has taken shape, when new uses will undoubtedly arise for it. That part of it back from the river, behind Baker Library, might, however, be put to immediate as a site for the power plant which must be erected to supply Harvard with heat and light. Already the Weeks Bridge carries the pipes for the service of the Business School. The same ducts might be employed for the passage of conduits from a main plant located in Alliston. Other plots of University-owned ground available for the structure are undesirable for this purpose because of their proximity to residential or working sections of the University. It would appear that, apart from the House on Boylston street, a replacement of the power plant built on land that is now waste is a step of immediate usefulness which may be taken on Harvard's unimproved property.
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