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Riverside Plans Draw Criticism

By Jessica R. Rubin-wills, Crimson Staff Writer

Dozens of Riverside residents challenged the location and design of Harvard’s proposed housing complexes in their neighborhood at a meeting of the city’s Planning Board last night.

The University is seeking the board’s approval to build a total of 328 units of faculty and affiliate housing in two sites in Riverside—along Cowperthwaite and Grant Streets near Mather House, and on a parcel of land along Memorial Drive.

The board did not vote on the plans at last night’s public hearing and will likely take up the matter again next month. If the board approves the plans, construction is slated to begin this spring.

Under an agreement unanimously approved by the City Council in October 2003, Harvard is allowed to build taller buildings on its Riverside property than abutters had originally wanted, in return for providing a public park along Memorial Drive and constructing about 36 units of affordable housing for city residents.

The University modified the designs after presenting initial plans to neighborhood residents this September.

But several residents said last night they are still dissatisfied with the blueprints, arguing that three proposed three-story buildings on the Memorial Drive site will block the neighborhood’s views of the Charles River.

Riverside resident Kevin Hill presented charts of his own alternate plan, which shifted the location of the buildings.

“We’re opposed to Harvard being given any permits until they deal with us fairly and equitably,” he said.

Several residents voiced support for Hill’s plan. Thomas J. Lucey, Harvard’s director of community relations for Cambridge, said after the meeting that University officials will investigate Hill’s proposal, but added it would not comply with the existing zoning agreements for the site.

Community residents also raised other concerns last night, including the protection of trees near Mather House, the demarcation of pedestrian pathways to prevent students from cutting through residents’ yards and the specific design elements of the buildings.

Cheng-San Chen, the owner of Louie’s Superette located near Mather, urged Harvard to find ways to minimize the noise and truck traffic during construction, which he said would adversely affect his convenience store’s business.

The designs shown last night represent a work in progress, according to several Riverside residents who negotiated the agreement with Harvard and now serve on a committee to oversee its implementation.

“The bottom line is, we’re still at the table talking,” committee member Lawrence Adkins told the board.

Another committee member, Alec Wysoker ’84, said he was optimistic that the residents would be able to negotiate further concessions from Harvard.

“The process with Harvard has been sometimes prickly, but overall I think it’s been a fairly constructive one,” he said.

—Staff writer Jessica R. Rubin-Wills can be reached at rubinwil@fas.harvard.edu.

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