Allston residents met last night to voice concerns over Harvard’s plans to build a new academic campus in their Boston neighborhood. Part of a longer cooperative process between Harvard and the community, the meeting outlined the main housing and quality of life issues surrounding the expansion, but yielded few concrete results.
The prospects of rising rents and crowded streets from an expanded Harvard has led the community to develop a strategic plan to guarantee their quality of life and the stability of their neighborhood as Harvard begins making deals to consolidate its property in the area and develops its own plans for institutional development.
“We wanted to develop our own plan before Harvard developed theirs,” said Allston resident Tim McHale.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) runs the North Allston planning process, which includes Harvard officials and Allston property owners and residents.
The community planning process occurs at the same time Harvard plans its own institutional development within the University.
“As they go along, the two processes will inform each other,” said Kevin A. McCluskey ’76, Harvard’s director of community relations for Boston.
The University currently owns 242 acres in Allston, compared to 216 in Cambridge. The land could possibly be used for graduate student and faculty housing, as well as the relocation of several graduate schools.
In addition to the community planning process, Harvard will need to present an institutional master plan for approval by the BRA in June. That plan will outline Harvard’s development projects for the next five years on its current property.
“What we want to do here is give them the context for that planning, to define what this group can do and what remains for the institutional master plan,” said David Spillane, a project director for Goody, Clancy and Associates, the company hired by the BRA to run the planning process.
The community plan includes measures to widen Allston’s two largest streets —Western Ave. and North Harvard St.—and transform them into pedestrian-friendly boulevards lined with trees, benches, and retail stores. At the intersection of the two streets—currently home to a gas station, Dunkin’ Donuts, industrial lots, and the low-income housing Charles View Apartments complex—the plan proposes a new “Allston Square,” a commercial center similar to Harvard Square that will serve as a transition between Harvard’s proposed academic center near the river and Allston’s residential areas.
With that economic development, however, comes concern over rising rents.
“This will become a hotbed of desirable property” McHale said. “We could get forced out.”
In a presentation to the group last November, officials from Harvard Planning and Real Estate said they planned to build new housing primarily for Harvard students and faculty.
Harvard has given $20 million in low-cost housing loans to Boston, but that money will be distributed throughout the city, and is not earmarked for the immediate area surrounding Harvard’s property.
Other key issues of the strategic plan call for expansion of green space in residential neighborhoods and easier accessibility to the Charles River waterfront, as well as more extensive transportation services to alleviate traffic and parking congestion.
—Staff writer Matthew F. Quirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.