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Approximately 200 administrators from the Harvard School of Public Health—which was slated to move to Allston before the University halted its construction there in 2009—are moving into a recently restored church facility on Smith Street in Mission Hill. The decision to move administrators to a new location with a long-term lease has raised questions about the University’s commitment to developing its properties in Allston.
But the move also frees up space for research and education in its main buildings on Huntington Ave. and has brought administrators closer to the School’s hub in the Longwood Medical Area.
“[The Mission Hill building] is much closer to the school so it’s good for us,” School of Public Health spokesperson Julie F. Rafferty said.
The administrators’ previous offices were located in Landmark Center in Fenway Park.
Since 2001, the School has considered transplanting its 28 building campus to Harvard’s property in Allston. Despite this week’s longer term move, the school has not ruled out relocating to Allston, according to Rafferty.
“As to further expansion, the School of Public Health has always considered Allston to be one of its possible future planning scenarios,” Rafferty wrote in an email.
Rafferty added that the school is considering a variety of different strategies to better organize its campus in the short- and mid-term.
The University signed a ten-year lease on the 40,000 square foot Mission Hill property nearly a year ago, and the move has raised doubt among Allston residents, who decry the University’s ambiguous plans for the completion of the Allston Science Complex, that Harvard will not follow through on its planned development of the city.
“I think most people in Allston have given up on Harvard,” said Allston resident and Harvard Allston Task Force member Harry E. Mattison. “Harvard’s not making any plans for anything, so now residents get to look at acres and acres of vacant property.”
In 2007, the University commenced building its $1 billion Allston Science Complex, but due to financial constraints University President Drew G. Faust announced a freeze on construction in Dec. 2009.
Allston Civic Association and Task Force member President Paul Berkeley said that Harvard has given residents little insight into its plans for development in Allston. It is still unclear whether Harvard will complete its construction of the Allston Science Complex in accordance with its original plans.
“They don’t even call it the Science Complex any more,” said Berkeley. “They call it the Western Ave. foundation. Harvard is looking at any and all possibilities, and we in Allston have to wait like everyone else.”
But the University has maintained that development in Allston will most likely include the construction of science facilities.
Rafferty added in an e-mail that School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk, a member of the Harvard Allston Work Team, “is actively engaged in the process to develop the recommendations for the site, which President Faust has said will undoubtedly be tied to one or more science-based uses.”
The Harvard Allston Work Team is currently in the process of analyzing its land holdings in Allston and will release its recommendations in mid-2011, according to University spokesperson Lauren Marshall.
In an open letter to the city, Faust wrote that the Work Team is considering “options for development and co-development around [the Allston Science Complex].”
—Staff writer Zoe A. Y. Weinberg contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Melanie A. Guzman can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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