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Harvard Begins Planning for Allston

By Mercer R. Cook, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard initiated an open planning process that will create a new Institutional Master Plan for the University’s development in Allston at the Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting on Tuesday.

The Institutional Master Plan will include planning for the Barry’s Corner Housing and Retails Commons, the current site of Charlesview Apartments, and a re-imagined science center.

At the meeting, University officials and hired consultants presented potential development concepts and solicited feedback from residents.

Kevin Casey, associate vice president for public affairs and communications, said that the meeting marked the “beginning of a conversation” about the IMP.

The new IMP will incorporate elements of the University’s 2007 IMP, which Harvard has moved away from since halting construction in 2009.

Harvard resumed development in Allston last fall after a year-and-a-half long pause triggered by financial constraints during the recent economic crisis.

Casey said that the new plan will focus on development during the next five to ten years—a marked difference from the 2007 document which outlined potential projects for the next 30 to 50 years.

Boston Redevelopment Authority Chief Planner Kairos Shen emphasized the importance of planning on a shorter time frame.

“The goal of this process is to take the most salient aspects of the [original] plan and extract from that those principles that are applicable for a five year plan,” said Shen.

Casey echoed Shen’s sentiment, noting that Harvard must be careful only to plan developments that the University will be able to complete.

“We want to focus on projects that are practical, relevant and provide tangible benefits for the University and the community,” Casey said.

The University hopes to submit the new plan to the Boston Redevelopment Authority for approval this fall—months prior to its original projected deadline of December.

While Allston residents voiced support for the new document’s more limited time frame, some criticized the “vagueness” of the University’s prospective plans.

After consultants presented possible options for development, Task Force member Brent C. Whelan ’73 said he felt that Harvard did not offer enough details for community members to provide productive feedback.

“What the University is presenting seems like a restricted version of the plan,” said Whelan.  “If we want this project to truly be a meeting of the community with Harvard, Harvard needs to reveal more of its plans to us.”

Shen acknowledged these concerns.

“At this moment, this plan would not be approved by the BRA,” he said.

But Shen also said that he believes the IMP will solidify over time and he urged community members to be patient with the University.

“This is a process and an ongoing exchange we are engaging in, so that by soliciting feedback from the community we can create a project that benefits everyone,” he said.

The University also presented more specific details about the Barry’s Corner Housing and Retail Commons. The proposed residential buildings will likely be comprised of three buildings ranging from five to ten stories.

This announcement drew concern from many residents, who said that they were not expecting the residential density that such tall buildings would entail.

“I’m having a really hard time understanding why we are talking about such a dense area when Harvard owns so much of the surrounding land,” Task Force member Kathy Campbell said.

At the meeting’s close, Shen announced that two Task Force members, John Cusack and John Bruno, will serve alongside five University administrators on the selection committee for Harvard’s development partner for Barry’s Corner.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu

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