School of Public Health Looks to Expand in Allston

Ten years ago, when Seema T. Meloni was studying biological sciences in public health at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, a Chinese restaurant occupied space in one of the units of a complex on Tremont Street.

Today, the Chinese restaurant Meloni recalls is one of the satellite facilities of the Harvard School of Public Health, where Meloni now works in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.

The converted Chinese restaurant is one of twenty-nine separate buildings, dispersed throughout Longwood and Boston, that house the growing School of Public Health. The University owns only four of these facilities, forced to rent out the others for additional space.

“It’s clear that one of the biggest constraints [for us] is space,” says Julio Frenk, dean of the School of Public Health, who described his School’s facilities as “landlocked.”

“As we look into the future, we need to grow,” he says.


For almost ten years, administrators have said that these buildings are too cramped and dispersed to meet the School of Public Health’s growing needs. But despite their efforts, the School has not been granted a unified space.

With the recent approval of the Harvard Allston Work Team’s recommendations for Allston, the School of Public Health may now have a renewed hope for moving to the site of the formerly-planned Allston Science Complex.


In September, the University approved the Work Team’s five recommendations for Harvard’s advancements into Allston. The Work Team—a 14-person group of deans, faculty, and alumni commissioned by University President Drew G. Faust—called for Harvard to reconsider space constraints facing the School of Public Health.

In the past, Allston was considered a possible solution for the School. For that reason, one of the recommendations calls for Harvard to resume planning and developing the Science Complex while accommodating the “programmatic needs” of the School of Public Health.

It also states that the new facility should be redesigned to maximize space for science programming while taking into consideration the University’s global health initiatives.

University Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp says that Harvard’s new provost, Alan M. Garber ’76, is in the process of reviewing the University’s academic needs, with an eye towards development in Allston.

“This review builds upon the Work Team discussions resulting in the recommendations released in June that involved participation by several deans, including the Dean of the School of Public Health, and leaders across the University,” Lapp wrote in a statement. “This academic planning, along with a sound financial strategy, provides the kind of discipline we need to make sure that if we start a project we will finish it.”

Currently, Garber is in the midst of prioritizing the University’s academic needs in Allston. Since the halt in construction on the Allston Science Complex in Dec. 2009, Harvard has directed its attention toward building an Enterprise Research Campus for science on Allston Landing North, similar to MIT’s Kendall Square.



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