Visitors to the former Billings and Stover drug store on Massachusetts Avenue are having a chance to see some informed views into the Harvard of the future.
An exhibit prepared by the Harvard Planning Office shows a large model of the University area, with present and future buildings. There are also detailed models of buildings now under construction or soon to get under way.
There are also drawings that give largely speculative glimpses into projects still in the contemplating stage--a ninth and tenth House, apartments for married students, a building for the Behavioral Sciences.
Fruits of the Program for Harvard College, which the visitor can see already under way, include Quincy House, nearly complete; the 12-story Leverett House Towers, about eight floors up now; and the Loeb Drama Center.
Nearly ready are plans for a Health Center and office building, which will eventually occupy the whole block bounded by Mass. Ave., and Mt. Auburn, Holyoke, and Dunster Sts. The first part of this construction will begin within a year.
But these are the only definite projects. Sketches of other developments range from some which await final decision to some which will probably never be built, at least in the shape that the Program publicity indicates.
The exhibit locates the ninth House, along with a still more indefinite tenth, on University-owned property along the Charles beyond Dunster House. Still further down the river, it is speculated, there will be a cooperative apartment house, open like any other apartment to the public, but possibly financed and certainly strongly supported by Harvard.
The exhibit, however, ignores one large piece of land that the University hopes to acquire, the 13 1/2 acre area across Boylston St. from Eliot House now occupied by Metropolitan Transit Authority carbarns and storage yards. In February the University disclosed that it had made a "firm offer" for the property, promising the MTA $1 million over the "market value" of the land.
The carbarn facilities were still very much in use, and there was no real indication that the MTA had any intention of selling the land, or even the air rights over it. Nevertheless, the possibility that expansion of the subway system might require relocation of the facilities evidently prompted Harvard to get its bid in early.
Reaction in the City Council, the State Legislature, and the press ranged from high praise to charges of a "land grab" and demands that Harvard, whose facilities are tax-exempt, should stop taking over valuable Cambridge property.
There is another still uncertain element in the offer. In the past, the Corporation has virtually never given any indication of its building plans until the last contract is signed and work is ready to get under way. In announcing its "offer" to the MTA the University was taking a calculated risk that it could sell the public on the virtues of taking over the land. Whether this was good strategy remains to be seen.
This kind of applied public relations will become increasingly important to Harvard as Program-financed buildings replace ramshackle houses in the declining residential areas near the University. To meet the need for a person to sell Harvard to the city, President Pusey last summer created a new post, Administrative Assistant for Civic Affairs, and appointed to it, Charles P. Whitlock, then Senior Tutor of Dudley House.
Whitlock has had a busy year keeping up with the City Council and preparing the way for two major projects, the Loeb Drama Center and the Leverett House Towers. He has also had a successful year, eliminating obstacles and creating good will
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