Harvard is proposing to build 330 new graduate student and faculty apartments in the neighborhood along the Charles River, which has been the site of some of the University’s most contentious town-gown battles for decades, according to designs presented to the city’s Planning Board last night.
The proposed development in two different Riverside sites comes almost a year after Harvard signed a landmark agreement with the city, under which the University can construct new buildings in Riverside in return for providing a public park and affordable housing units for the community on its property.
Residents. who viewed the plans for the first time earlier this month, have expressed concerns about the size and style of the buildings and said yesterday that they are awaiting the University’s response.
Thomas J. Lucey, Harvard’s director of community relations for Cambridge, said at the meeting that the University would refine its designs before coming before the board again later this fall to seek the necessary permits at a public hearing.
According to the designs, Harvard will construct new graduate student housing on Cowperthwaite Street across from Dunster and Mather Houses. The building will range in height from 45 to 55 feet and replace the existing parking lot. The path next to Leverett House will remain a pedestrian walkway. The University will also build six new houses along Grant and Banks Streets, each two-to-three stories tall.
In its parcel of land along Memorial Drive, Harvard will build a 65-foot housing complex on the site where Mahoney’s Garden Center is currently located, as well as three smaller apartment buildings set farther back from the river.
To satisfy the terms of the agreement with the city—which the City Council approved unanimously last October after weeks of intense behind-the-scenes negotiations—Harvard will create a nearly one-acre park along Memorial Drive next to its new housing developments. The University will also build 30-34 affordable housing units on the corner of Western Avenue and Blackstone Street.
Planning board members last night questioned specific aspects of the designs, but several also praised the University’s plans.
“This is really going to be pretty nice,” said Hugh Russell ’64, who said the building along Memorial Drive was in “dialogue” with nearby Peabody Terrace.
Resident Lawrence Adkins said some abutters were concerned about issues such as traffic, parking and making the buildings fit the character of neighborhood.
“The imagination of the architecture could probably grow from all the comments made about this project,” Adkins said.
Alan Joslin, a resident of the Kerry Corner area near Mather House, said the agreement with Harvard benefited the neighborhood overall, but he was concerned about the “harshness” of some of the designs.
“We haven’t seen the authentic integration of the neighborhood scale with the institutional scale,” he said.
Lucey said the University would consider neighborhood input, but he added that the residents’ concerns had been reflected in the broad terms of the agreement. “We’re now down to aesthetics and some subjective things,” he said.
The University is required by the agreement to file for permits from the city by Oct. 27. Construction is expected to begin late this winter and may be done as early as the summer of 2006, University representatives said last night.
—Staff writer Jessica R. Rubin-Wills can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.