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As Short Term Planning Proceeds Allston Residents Ask for Clarity on Long Term Vision

By Tara W. Merrigan and Nathalie R. Miraval, Crimson Staff Writers

Allston Task Force members and community residents expressed concerns about the new renovation plans for the Western Ave. streetscape, a topic that the University has stayed mum on for over a year, at a Task Force meeting Monday night.

“Sidewalks and trees are not community development,” Allston Task Force member Brent Whelan ’73 said to much applause. “It’s pathetically inadequate.”

Director of Master Planning Harris S. Band said that Harvard plans to create more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks along Western Ave. with trees and fences, particularly focusing on Barry’s Corner.

David Spillane of Goody Clancy, an architectural firm, said that the firm hopes to create a consistent sidewalk aesthetic.

“We hope the small changes over time cumulatively support the larger vision,” said Spillane.

But residents feel that beautification of sidewalks is not as pressing as Harvard’s vacant properties, saying that these efforts should be transferred to the paved-over Science Complex foundation on Western Ave. and the soon-to-be vacant Charlesview Apartment Complex.

The new Charlesview broke ground Monday morning and is projected to finish construction in the next two years. The new location—formerly owned by Harvard—was given to Charlesview in 2009 in exchange for University ownership of the lot on which the current housing complex stands in an effort to consolidate Harvard’s Allston land holdings.

The University has yet to announce definite long term plans for either the current Charlesview property or the Science Complex foundation. Harvard halted construction in Dec. 2009 due to financial constraints.

Allston residents’ reactions to construction plans for the Business School’s Tata Hall ranged from indifference to skepticism. In an effort to make the Business School’s campus landscape more open to the community, three new green spaces will be created alongside the new academic and residential building. Tata Hall itself is shaped like a half moon, its concave curve intended to signify welcoming the community, according to the project’s planners.

As with the sidewalk redevelopment, residents said that it was unclear how this project’s architecture would benefit the community.

“With every major building development there should be a discussion of community benefits, and that’s been lost with Tata Hall,” Task Force member Bruce E. Houghton said.

“I have this feeling that we’re putting the ass in front of the horse here,” Houghton added. “Harvard has gone ahead with Tata Hall as its on their campus and they think it doesn’t affect us.”

Residents again expressed confusion as to why Harvard is not focusing on vacant properties along Western Ave.

“I think Harvard is doing another bait and switch here with us. They’re taking this beautiful piece of ground on the Charles River and digging up all this grass when there are two sites going to be unused—the current Charlesview and the science [complex],” said Allston resident Lisa J. Kunze.

Addressing residents’ worries, Allston Work Team Co-chair Bill Purcell said that the Work Team’s recommendations are on track, slated to come out in mid-2011 and that they will provide a longer term framework for Harvard’s Allston development.

Gabe Handel,

the managing director of the Harvard Business School Dean’s office, also updated residents on the progress of the Innovation Lab, slated to be open in September.

Handel said that the renovation of 125 Western Avenue, which will house the lab, is moving smoothly.

—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at tmerrigan@college.harvard.edu

—Staff writer Nathalie R. Miraval can be reached at nmiraval@college.harvard.edu

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City PoliticsHarvard in the CityAllstonUniversity