Harvard’s Life Lab Gets Green Light from BRA

The Boston Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously on Thursday to approve Harvard’s plans for the Life Lab, a biotechnology research and entrepreneurial facility scheduled to open in Allston this fall.

The board of directors of the BRA—Boston’s urban planning agency—approved the Life Lab at their meeting as one of a slew of seven projects that together represent an investment of $285.5 million and will create more 530 construction jobs. The Life Lab alone is projected to cost $17 million and generate 13 jobs.

The Life Lab will feature 36 lab benches, fume hoods, tissue culture and microscopy facilities, a private faculty-in-residence lab suite, conference rooms, and co-working spaces to support team planning. The two-story, 15,000-square-foot facility is slated for construction on Western Ave., in the parking lot directly west of the four-year old affiliated Harvard Innovation Lab.

Future Harvard Innovation Wet Lab Building
An artist rendering of Harvard's Life Lab.

"We are very excited to have received the approval from the BRA to begin construction on the Harvard Life Lab,” Jodi Goldstein, the director of the Harvard Innovation Lab, said in a press release. “This project is a pivotal step in making Allston one of the most robust startup communities in the region.”

Harvard spokesperson Annie Tomasini and Business School Chief of Operations Andrew F. O’Brien led the University’s presentation to the BRA on Thursday evening, describing the Life Lab’s layout, intended function, and accompanying community benefits package.

“It is a pilot project, we want to see if we can develop this building adjacent to the i-lab and see how productive we can be in accelerating the startup of these life science businesses,” O’Brien said in his concluding remarks to the board.

Though most aspects of the Life Lab were not contentious, board member and former President of the Boston Architectural College Theodore C. Landsmark raised concerns over the planned building’s exterior design. In a pointed exchange with O’Brien, Landsmark asked for assurance that the first iteration of the Life Lab, an interim facility intended to operate for five to 10 years before moving to a more permanent location, would not look like a “trailer.”

“I would just suggest to you that, given that the Mayor and this agency have asked for as much innovation in design as possible, [and] particularly given that the program of this 15,000-square facility is about generating innovation and entrepreneurship, that the buildings you generate in the future… be equally innovative as the work that is proposed to go on within [them],” Landsmark said.

University spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke declined to comment on Landsmark's concern.

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


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