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The thousand undergraduates who live up Garden Street will soon be a dying breed, under recommendations released today that would move the Quad Houses to Allston and shift Harvard’s center from the Yard to the Charles River.
The undergraduate life task force’s proposal to build three to eight Houses across the River, first reported by The Crimson a month ago, came along with a series of other expected recommendations for the new Allston campus.
The plan for undergraduate housing, moving the public health and education schools and building a science hub of at least one million square feet echo but add detail to the plan for Allston outlined by University President Lawrence H. Summers in October.
A “critical mass” of undergraduates living in Allston Houses will be key to the success of the campus, the report found. The task force also concluded that locating the new Houses along or close to the River is “essential,” making an eventual relocation of some athletic fields likely.
The reports lay out a detailed series of possible science components for the campus, from a planned stem cell institute to interdisciplinary research on engineering and the “origins of life.”
Summers emphasized last night that no decisions had been made, calling the reports a “terrific menu” of options. But both he and University Provost Steven E. Hyman said they were pleased that the undergraduate housing possibility—which was proposed internally last summer—had been so strongly endorsed by the task force.
“The task force got very excited about the idea,” Hyman said. “Undergraduates kind of give life to everything, and people saw the mutual benefit and the notion of students being closer to each other along the river and being potentially closer to new educational facilities.”
Summers said he was “impressed” that the task force and its leaders, including Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby and Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise, “came to the conclusion in as strong a way as they did.”
After Summers’ October letter recommended that undergraduates live in Allston, the task force conducted a survey that solicited students’ preferences for housing attributes in Allston without asking whether students supported the housing move.
The undergraduate life report also recommends considering substantial improvements to Harvard’s athletic facilities at a time when some of the existing facilities will likely move farther from the River to accommodate the new Houses.
Summers said Scalise and others have been concerned about the quality of the University’s varsity athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium.
The report suggested holding afternoon classes in and moving some Faculty of Arts and Sciences departments and student services to Allston as well as the creation of a student center there.
In addition to stem cells, engineering and origins of life, the science report suggests that innovative computing, quantum science and technology, systems neuroscience and behavior, systems biology, chemical biology, global health, microbial science, environment, clinical research and collaborative science be among the “areas of inquiry” the Allston science hub will focus on.
Many of those recommendations are drawn from a report of science options issued earlier this year by Harvard Medical School Chemistry Department Chair Ed Harlow.
Hyman, who chaired the science group, said professors were eager to begin building the new centers, although he said no timeframe has yet emerged for science construction.
“My scientists want to start digging tomorrow,” Hyman said.
The professional schools committee endorsed the October plan of moving the public health and education schools to Allston.
The Allston life group suggests, in addition to the improvement of existing shuttle services and bridges, considering building a new bridge, installing a tram, creating a rail line from Allston to Harvard’s Longwood medical campus in Boston or enhancing the bridge on John F. Kennedy Street to become a “Ponte Vecchio on the Charles.”
The task force also recommended that planners investigate the less likely proposals of bridging over Soldiers Field Road and developing a regional transportation center in the area.
The committee pondered three cultural scenarios ranging from merely moving the Museum of Natural History to creating a museum “complex” with a major artistic center.
In moving to expand graduate housing, the group is contemplating modeling that housing along the undergraduate House, rather than the apartment, system.
The report also eyes the Quad as valuable space that would allow the University to meet its commitment to offering housing to 50 percent of its graduate students without much further housing in Allston.
For campus planning, the group outlined four models ranging from typical college quads to an integrated urban campus.
Summers said the University’s Allston master planner will consider the four reports after the planner is chosen in about a month. He said the committee charged with selecting a planner has completed most of its work but has not yet made a formal recommendation, he said.
“The committee I think has some ideas as to where it wants to go,” he said yesterday. “But we have not made a decision.”
Hyman added that despite eagerness to get started, patience would be critical to the University’s planning.
“This is going to really recreate the face of Harvard,” Hyman said. “We need to do this right.”
—Lauren A. E. Schuker contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Stephen M. Marks can be reached at email@example.com.
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