Revisions to Harvard’s planned relocation of campus services to 28 Travis Street in North Allston were met with mixed reactions at a Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting Tuesday night.
Residents also voiced concern over what they called unsatisfactory and ambiguous plans for improvements to Rena Park and the mixed-use development at Barry’s Corner.
Kevin Casey, Harvard’s associate vice president for public affairs and communications, began the meeting by presenting six modifications meant to address community concerns over the relocation of mailroom services, Harvard University Information Technology, Harvard University Police Department training, recycling and storage, and “fleet management services” from 219 Western Avenue to 28 Travis Street. The proposed plan for the project and for the residential and retail commons at Barry’s Corner is slated to go before the Boston Redevelopment Authority board next week.
“My hope is that most of you, if not all of you, will feel comfortable... with Harvard moving forward with the relocation project,” Casey said.
The changes Casey announced included the elimination of Harvard traffic on Travis Street, a commitment to begin planning for Rena Park next month, shuttle access for Allston residents, and a promise to find a suitable location for the Ed Portal in Barry’s Corner.
“[The plan] has been improved by all of your feedback,” Casey said.
After Casey’s presentation, Allston residents expressed concerns that the changes did not address issues like the disruptive sounds emitted by Harvard vehicles.
Allston resident Paul “Chip” Alfred criticized Harvard’s plan to operate the facility throughout the night. But Carl Tempesta, Harvard’s associate director of transit, fleet, and charter, responded that the University plans to construct a new building on Travis Street, which will serve as a noise buffer for the neighborhood. He also said that traffic late at night and early in the morning will be minimal.
Task force members also took issue with Harvard’s promise to “revisit” 28 Travis Street as the suitable location for campus services once the construction of the Allston Science Complex is finished.
“Those totally nebulous terms offer me no assurance whatsoever,” task force member Brent C. Whelan ’73 said. “The term ‘revisit’ doesn’t tell me a thing.”
Casey responded by saying that the University and task force could change the wording of the proposal before it is reviewed by the BRA board on March 14. However, Casey said that it will be hard to assess the location’s suitability until the science complex is completed.
“We want to make sure there’s a certainty of what’s going to happen,” task force chair Ray V. Mellone said.
The members of the task force recommended approval of the Travis Street relocation under three additional conditions, the first of which was that Harvard agree not to put campus services on or near residential streets. Additionally, the task force requested that Harvard complete construction on Rena Park and move campus services away from Travis Street by the time the science complex is occupied in 2018.
Despite the critique of Harvard’s proposal, some task force members said that they appreciated the University’s attempts to move toward a compromise.
“I thought that your presentation addressed a multitude of things that we are concerned about,” Mellone said. “We’re almost there and I would hate to see us not get there.”
The Travis Street relocation is part of a larger plan for development of Harvard’s property in Allston, including a new basketball arena, a hotel and conference center, and the renovation of Harvard Stadium.
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