The December 3 staff editorial, "Carey Cage: Rashly Razed," reflects an unfortunate lack of understanding of the physical planning issues which formed the basis for the University's decision to demolish this building. Contrary to the editorial's title, the decision was far from rash, having been first made and documented more than 25 years ago, and having been carefully considered by University officials at all levels since then.
Although the decision to demolish Carey Cage was a difficult one, it was clearly the choice that best serves the needs of the University and its athletic programs. Carey Cage was taken down to allow for the creation of a major and sorely-needed athletics facility and an important new entry plaza serving the whole of the Soldiers Field athletics complex.
This project (including removal of Carey Cage) was identified in Harvard's master planning and fundraising documents developed during the mid-1970s. More importantly, in 1989 it was described in Harvard's Allston Campus Master Plan, a widely-circulated public document prepared in coordination with numerous City officials and local neighborhood representatives. This Master Plan continues to be used by Harvard and the City of Boston in guiding the planning and development of the Allston campus.
Your assertion that Harvard approached the building's demolition in isolation from the preservation community is not true. In September, Harvard openly brought its plan for Carey Cage to the Boston Landmarks Commission, the City's public body specifically empowered to consider historic preservation issues.
The Commission is comprised of seasoned professionals and business-people experienced in evaluating difficult planning and preservation decisions. After listening to Harvard's campus planning objectives and after making its own evaluation of the merits of the building, the Commission unconditionally granted the University the right to demolish Carey Cage. Harvard then waited two months before actually moving forward with demolition.
The University has carefully evaluated a range of alternatives to the demolition of Carey Cage, including options to build the new athletics facility elsewhere in the area. However, extremely poor soil conditions limited the remaining buildable sites in the athletics complex to land located between the Stadium and Briggs Cage, Reuse of Carey Cage was found to be impractical due to its scale, dimensions and structural system that did not lend itself to dismantling. Costs associated with the idea of moving Carey Cage proved to be prohibitive.
Your assertion that the University would take the demolition of any of its buildings lightly is, at best, misinformed. The University places high value on the historical and aesthetic value of its buildings, and is proud of the job it has done in preserving them as active parts of University life. However, for those of us who have responsibility for maintaining the functionality of our physical environment, difficult choices are sometimes required. In this case, we have an opportunity to enhance dramatically Harvard's athletics complex, and the demolition of Carey Cage was a necessary part of this project. --Harris Band Director of Physical Planning