By Derek K. Choi and Nadia X. Haile

Breaking Ground: New Allston Projects Underway

As Harvard breaks ground on new projects and continues with others, Allston residents can expect years of construction in their neighborhood.
By Jonah S. Lefkoe and Hannah Natanson

In 2003, then-Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers announced ambitious plans for new residential and and academic facilities in the Allston neighborhood in Boston, across the Charles River from the University’s main campus. Although Harvard released an official master plan for its Allston developments in 2007, the University decided to halt construction in the wake of the financial crisis in December of 2009.

Three years later, Harvard released a scaled-back plan for the Allston area. This plan, approved in 2013 by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, ensures that construction will continue in Allston for most of the next decade—all projects have been slated for completion by 2024. Harvard developments approved by the BRA, Boston’s urban planning agency, include a nine-project institutional master plan that will create approximately 1.4 million square feet of new construction and 500,000 square feet of renovations, as well as a $1 billion science complex slated to house relocated parts of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Here is an update, provided for the most part by Harvard spokesperson Brigid O'Rourke, on projects both under construction and those set to begin in the next few years.

Chao Center

The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, a 75,000 square-foot facility that will house the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program, began construction in early 2014 and is scheduled to open in June 2016. The center will feature dining facilities, office and common spaces, and classrooms for the more than 10,000 executives who participate in the Business School program each year.

Esteves Hall

Named for Brazilian investment banker André Esteves— who was jailed in November 2015 in connection with a corruption scandal— Esteves Hall was completed in March 2015; occupants moved in last April. Formerly named Baker Hall, the building, which also accommodates Executive Education students, underwent cosmetic, systems, and accessibility improvements. In December, Esteves was released on house arrest after just a few weeks in jail and he remains under investigation.

Gateway Project

The proposed “Gateway project” will be built on land Harvard acquired in a 2007 land swap. The site was previously home to the Charlesview apartment complex. Although it was originally slated to be a “mixed use institutional building” by the IMP, faculty interest in the building has initiated a discussion among University administrators about whether it should be meant for academic purposes. In late 2014, after many Charlesview residents relocated to a new building a half-mile down Western Avenue, Harvard began remediation and demolition of the old complex. Construction on the site is projected to continue into 2016.


Once known as “Barry’s Corner Residential and Retail Commons,” Continuum—so-termed by developer Samuels and Associates—is a residential and retail complex located at the corner of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue. The project includes housing units, retail space, and parking slots. Harvard and city officials broke ground on Continuum in late 2013, and tenants began moving into the completed building this past fall. On Jan. 25, 42 applicants were chosen by lottery to rent affordable housing units in the complex.

The New SEAS

In November 2015 Harvard filed an IMP Notification Form updating its plans for the the new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences complex after holding four community meetings on the topic. Two-thirds of the SEAS faculty is slated to move across the Charles in 2020. The University is currently responding to comments made by the BRA and the general public regarding the proposal. Harvard first presented plans for the $1 billion health and life science center in Allston in December 2012. Shortly thereafter, University President Drew G. Faust announced the complex would include parts of SEAS, though the details, date, and scope of the school’s move remain uncertain.

Hotel and Conference Center

The IMP proposes that Harvard build a hotel and conference center on Western Ave. with meeting spaces and approximately 200 bedrooms. Although the University has not officially determined whether the hotel will be managed by Harvard or a third-party operator, the project is predicted to go forward between 2020 and 2024.

Basketball Venue and Mixed-Use Facility

Harvard administrators have planned a new mixed-use facility and basketball venue on the North Harvard Street site of the old Ed Portal, slated for construction between 2020 and 2024. The arena would be a 1,000-seat upgrade from the 2,195-seat Lavietes Pavilion, the second-smallest basketball arena in the Ivy League. The facility will also feature graduate housing and ground-floor retail space, according to the IMP. When the venue was initially included in the IMP, Allston residents expressed concerns about the noise and activity that the larger arena might bring.

Harvard Stadium

The University will undertake a renovation of and addition to the Harvard Stadium over the next two years. Harvard plans to repair areas of deterioration, increase accessibility for those with disabilities, and expand and upgrade the stadium’s restroom and concession facilities. Additionally, the University will construct new locker room spaces for the football program, new press areas, indoor seating, and office space for the Athletics department while decreasing the total number of stadium seats by roughly 8,000 from 30,262. The project is slated for completion by 2018.

Harvard Life Lab

Officially named on Wednesday, the Harvard Life Lab is slated to open in September 2016, pending BRA approval. At two stories and 15,000 square feet, the modular biotech building on Western Avenue will house biological labs and team planning space dedicated to supporting student research and enterprise in biotechnology. The Life Lab will be built on a portion of the Innovation Lab’s parking lot, joining the i-lab and Launch Lab on Harvard’s rapidly expanding enterprise campus. Harvard plans to operate the Life Lab for five to ten years as a prototype until it relocates to a more permanent facility in Allston.

Smith Field Playground

Though details are scant at this time, Boston’s Parks and Recreation department began to draft a master plan for Smith Field playground in early 2015, which is expected to be completed in the next few months, according to a statement from project manager Cathy Baker-Eclipse provided by Parks and Recreation spokesperson Ryan Woods. Baker-Eclipse wrote the playground master plan includes features to “make the park a park for the entire neighborhood.”

Klarman Hall and G2 Pavilion

Harvard plans to construct two new academic buildings, Klarman Hall and the G2 Pavilion, on a site currently home to the Business School’s Burden Hall and an adjacent parking lot. Construction will take place in two phases and will add approximately 76,100 square feet of new space. The first phase will involve the creation of Klarman Hall, a two-story facility planned to hold a media-equipped auditorium seating roughly 1,000 in addition to foyer, reception, meeting, and service space. The second phase will consist of the demolition of Burden Hall and the construction of G2 Pavilion, a two-story building with classroom and meeting space.

–Staff writer Jonah S. Lefkoe can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JonahLefkoe.

–Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

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