Allston 2.0

A New Plan for an Old Vision

Ruth D. Kagan

Five years ago, administrators at Harvard envisioned giving Harvard Square a sister.

The younger sibling would be located across the river, slightly smaller but brimming with all of the vivacity of her elder sibling. She was called Barry’s Corner—a proposed hub of commercial and academic activity at the intersection of Western Ave. and North Harvard Street.

Barry’s Corner would enhance the $1 billion, state-of-the-art Science Center a few blocks away, serving as a community nexus for the extension of Harvard’s academic venture across the Charles River.

But that vision never came to pass.

Instead, the plan for Barry’s Corner—like hot breakfast, faculty hiring, and the Allston Science Complex itself—was a victim of the 2008 financial crisis, and today, Harvard Square’s would-be little sister remains a relatively quiet and inconspicuous intersection.

But if plans do not fall through a second time, it will not stay that way much longer.

In December 2011, Harvard officially resumed planning for Allston. Since then, the University has embarked on an open process that will guide Harvard in achieving its vision.

Though the University has promised transparency, not all Allston residents are convinced that Harvard is disclosing enough information. And some ultimately doubt that the University can successfully integrate community and institutional interests.


Harvard has considered creating a second campus in Allston for more than a decade.

This dream culminated in 2007 when the University released its Institutional Master Plan for Allston. Projecting 30 to 50 years into the future, the document envisioned the creation of a “main street” along Western Ave. and construction of the Allston Science Complex, comprised of laboratories and classroom spaces especially designed for stem cell research.

These projects, however, were halted in late 2009 after the financial crisis dealt a heavy blow to the University endowment.

As Harvard looks to move forward in Allston, some elements of the old plan have remained intact, such as the creation of a bustling hub at Barry’s Corner and a strong academic environment across the river.

“Our goal is that this would be one Harvard and that people will view Allston as part of the campus, just the way Harvard Yard is,” said University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76. “We don’t want people to think of Allston as a distant outpost.”

But the specifics of development are still in flux and could differ significantly from the vision proposed five years ago.