Harvard University has big plans for its land in Allston. As a site of future expansion, it will someday soon be the home of research labs, offices, classrooms—even entire graduate schools. This expansion is crucial to meet the changing space demands of the University, which needs new facilities to blossom and remain a leader in research and academia. Because the move to Allston will create jobs in the new labs and offices, stimulate economic activity in the areas and free-up space in Cambridge, the city, state and entire region stand to benefit from Harvard’s plans to grow.
It is unfortunate, then, that certain local politicians, including Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, are working to thwart Harvard’s attempt to acquire a 91 acre parcel in Allston from the Turnpike Authority. By trying to block the sale, state leaders are pandering to anti-Harvard sentiments instead of rationally considering the actual costs and benefits of the proposed purchase.
These 91 acres of underdeveloped land are encumbered by railroad tracks and permanent easements. A small 1.4 acre corner of the plot is presently used by Houghton Chemical Company, and politicians complain that Harvard’s possession of the land would threaten the company’s viability. Others are concerned that Harvard’s construction will block transportation into Boston and harm area businesses. But these concerns should be alleviated by the fact that Harvard has no plans to disturb the Turnpike’s permanent easements nor to force Houghton Chemical off the land.
These politicians should take a lesson from the more reasonable Turnpike Authority, owner of the 91 acres. In light of their budget problems, the Turnpike Authority has recognized the need to sell the land to the highest bidder, which in this case appears to be Harvard. And by ensuring that essential transportation services are guaranteed, the Turnpike Authority has been able to improve Boston’s position as well as Harvard’s and its own. Harvard should develop the land to further its own future while respecting the easements and plans the Turnpike Authority put in place for the good of the city. Everyone benefits in that case—the politicians just have to realize it.