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For the first time, Harvard announced that it will engage residents in an open process to select a developer for Barry’s Corner at the Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting Wednesday night. This new, more inclusive strategy follows two years during which Harvard halted construction in Allston and tensions festered.
In addition to soliciting criteria from residents during Task Force meetings, the University will include two Task Force members on its seven-person selection committee, according to University associate vice president for public affairs and communications Kevin Casey.
The committee will compile a short list of developers, who will then undergo a final round of interviews. Harvard Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp is expected to announce the selected developer for the Barry’s Corner project on June 1.
Harvard has never before worked this closely with community members in the selection of a developer, Casey said.
“We have a goal to try and engage the community in some different ways than we have before and in some creative ways that may be uncharacteristic of Harvard,” Casey said.
This resumed development follows a two years of tension, during which Allston residents—uncertain that the University would restart construction—expressed dissatisfaction with Harvard.Many decried Harvard for breaking its promise to create a “main street” environment in Lower Allston, a goal which will be achieved in part by the Barry’s Corner development, according to the University.
Harvard halted development in Allston in Dec. 2009 after the financial crisis dealt a heavy blow to the University’s endowment.
While many community members expressed enthusiasm for the committee’s transparency and inclusiveness, others were skeptical of the University’s ability to successfully take account of residents’ interests and the interests of the University and developer.
“The effort to include the committee are really encouraging to me,” said Task Force member and Allston resident Bruce E. Houghton. “I really appreciate the thought and effort that [Harvard] put into this and the openness of the housing you’re going to build. I look forward to that sort of atmosphere of inclusiveness and participation in the future.”
In the past, Task Force members and other residents have said they have felt excluded from Harvard’s planning.
Several Task Force members said that some of the parameters Harvard has already set for the Barry’s Corner site—such as only offering units at market rate—have already put the University’s goals at odds with the hopes of Allston residents.
“I firmly believe that mixed-income housing makes for a healthier community,” said Task Force member Brent C. Whelan ’73. “I’m worried that the University’s criteria are not going to allow for this idea that is very important to a lot of us.”
Harvard officials said that the housing on Barry’s Corner may have some opportunity for mixed-income housing after the project is reviewed under the city of Boston’s Article 80.
Harvard also revealed the expected perimeter of the Barry’s Corner site. The University expects the site will be bound by Western Avenue, North Harvard Street, Soldier’s Field, and the Harvard Allston Education Portal.
This announcement was met with criticism from some Allston residents, who said that the site was smaller than they had expected.
Community members also worried that the density of the site might limit its potential.
“I think this is very under-whelming,” said Task Force member Harry E. Mattison. “Harvard’s not going to create a focus for North Allston activity in that one little corner.”
Amidst this skepticism, the University and the Boston Redevelopment Authority stressed the importance of open dialogue with the community.“We are starting a process.
If Harvard, developer, or community demands too much then the project could be unfeasible,” said Mahmood Malihi, an executive vice president of Leggat McCall Properties, the firm hired by Harvard to advise the University on its Allston planning.
“We’re hoping to draft a plan that is in line with Harvard’s goals and with the community’s goals.”
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: March 1
An earlier version of this article stated that the expected perimeters of the Barry’s Corner development project are Western Avenue, North Harvard Street, Soldier’s Field, and the Innovation Lab. In fact, the development will be bordered not by the Innovation Lab but by the Harvard Allston Education Portal.
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