City to Revamp Barry's Corner

Allston residents responded with cautious approval to proposals presented by the City of Boston to revitalize Barry’s Corner and Holton Street Corridor, two key tracts of land in Allston that have stood underdeveloped for decades, at last night’s North-Allston Brighton Community-Wide Plan meeting.

Consultants from the Cecil Group, an urban planning firm that is advising the Boston Redevelopment Authority, unveiled several versions of a plan to turn Barry’s Corner­­—a large intersection at North Harvard St. and Western Ave. that currently contains only a gas station—into a community hub that contains restaurants, cafes and a park. To illustrate their particular vision, the presenters made comparisons to other lively urban centers that are bordered by institutions, such as Harvard Square and University Park near MIT.

The University’s 50-year master plan foresees academic and institutional buildings framing two sides of Barry’s corner, and developers proposed an array of mixed-use buildings of varying heights to fill out the football-field-size space remaining.

“We need to consider what’s fun and interesting and needed from a neighborhood standpoint in order to create that sense of a center,” said Steven G. Cecil, a principal at the Cecil Group.

After the discussion on Barry’s corner, developers also presented plans for the redesign of the Holton Street Corridor, a mix of residences and businesses adjacent to Brighton Mills. Some of the ideas included adding multi-functional retail spaces that would contain a pharmacy, a grocery store and a series of small neighborhood parks.

“We’re focused on the idea of knitting the grid back together and allowing the residential character to flow through the neighborhood,” Cecil said.

Although several residents said that they appreciated the detail in the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s plans, some also questioned whether creating a commercial center in the middle of the community would increase traffic congestion.

“I think that maybe there is just too much to put in with too little space,” said Harvard Allston task force chairman Ray Mellone. “Maybe it is best to leave some of it not developed, so you don’t get the feeling of claustrophobia.”

After another Cecil Group consultant finished the night’s presentations with a talk on sustainability, residents expressed concern about the gap between espousing green principles and putting them into practice.

“Sometimes in these meetings I’m feeling like we’re away from reality,” said task force member Bruce Houghton. “This is the hope and dream you’re presenting, but the reality of what is proposed is...alien to everything you have suggested tonight. It is not green, and it is not compatible with open space,” he said.

The discussion on urban planning will continue next Tuesday at the Community-Wide Plan meeting that will focus on options for housing and retail in Allston.

-Staff writer Nan Ni can be reached at

-Staff writer Vidya B. Viswanathan can be reached at