Top University Planner To Focus on Allston

Spiegelman becomes first high-level official to plan for Allston full-time

Justin H. Haan

Associate Vice President for Planning and Real Estate KATHY A. SPIEGELMAN stands in front of a map of the University’s land in Allston.

Harvard’s top planner will be doing all her work on the other side of the river by the end of the year, the University announced yesterday.

Kathy A. Spiegelman, associate vice president for planning and real estate, will redouble her focus on Allston planning and relocate her office into the Boston neighborhood, she said.

By moving there, she will be able to look out the window and see her new major project—the University’s new campus on nearly 300 acres of formerly industrial land.

According to Special Assistant to the President Dennis F. Thompson, Spiegelman will become the first high-level administrator who will work full-time on the planning for Allston.

Spiegelman, who has served as the director of Harvard Planning and Real Estate (HPRE) since 1995, will leave her post at the end of this year to become chief University planner and director of the Allston Initiative.

But even before the change in title, she is no stranger to planning work in Allston. Spiegelman said that, particularly over the past year, Allston planning has taken more and more of her time and she has had to delegate many of her real estate duties.

As part of her departure, HPRE will be officially split into two independent parts—planning and real estate—undoing the 1995 merger that created the office.

Spiegelman said that while the merger was successful, the University’s land holdings have now grown too large for a joint office to handle.

In her move to Allston, Spiegelman will bring with her the planning side of HPRE, leaving the real estate management side of the office on the ninth floor of the Holyoke Center.

While Allston might not be prime office space, Harvard’s new campus is the prime planning work of this generation—and the legacy that President Lawrence H. Summers has repeatedly said he would like to leave for the future.

Spiegelman said that one of her main jobs will be to consolidate and centralize plans at a University where every school has traditionally planned independantly.

“The academic planning happens school by school,” Spiegelman said. “The University wants to figure out, is that the best result? Or is there a possibility for them to look at things together?”

Thompson already chairs a faculty committee that has been examining options for the Allston land over the past year.

Last year, three options emerged for the Allston land—creating a science campus; relocating professional schools, with particular attention on the Law School; creating a “cultural” enclave, featuring museums, likely to be a part of any plans for a new campus.

And top University administratiors hope to make a decision about what to do with the land by the end of the summer.

“As we move into the critical stages of planning, we have known for some time that we needed one high level administrator who would have full time responsibility for this exciting challenge,” Thompson wrote in an e-mail message. “No one is better qualified for this exciting challenge. It is as if she has been preparing her whole career for just this assignment.”

In the spring of 2001, then-President Neil L. Rudenstine called the Faculty of Arts an Sciences unmovable.

But months later, Spiegelman said that even FAS science facilities could move across the River—the first public statement of an option that later became one of three.

“I don’t mean to contradict the president, but that is his vision at the close of his term. In the sciences particularly, a lot of space is needed, and that may mean moving to a location away from the Cambridge campus,” Spiegelman said at the time.

—Staff writer Lauren R. Dorgan can bre reached at