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Representatives from Harvard proposed developing a 14-acre plot of its now-empty land in Allston, prompting concern from some Allston residents at a community forum Wednesday night.
Harvard spokespeople Kevin Casey and Harris Band presented an initial development plan for the land, a portion of the University’s “Enterprise Research Campus”—a loosely-defined 36-acre area on which Harvard proposed a center for entrepreneurship in Allston.
Covering a total of 900,000 square feet, the initial plan includes 400,000 square feet for offices and labs, 250,000 square feet for a hotel and conference center, and 250,000 square feet for a residential building.
If approved by a group of Allston residents, plans for the 14-acre space will fall under the Planned Development Area Master Plan, which states that Harvard may develop the land under a broad set of guidelines, even if the University does not adhere strictly to the “initial plans” presented Wednesday night.
Band said the land’s proximity to Harvard Business School and the current “innovation cluster”—encompassing Harvard’s Innovation Lab, Life Lab, and the planned ArtLab—makes Allston ideal for the development of the Enterprise Research Campus.
“What we want to do is to foster connections between these entities to foster a network of innovation,” Band said.
He and Casey sought approval from the Harvard Enterprise Research Campus Impact Advisory Group, a group of residents who will help guide the University’s plans for the 14-acre plot. The Impact Advisory Group functions similarly to the Harvard-Allston Task Force that oversees plans for Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex in Allston.
At the meeting, Impact Advisory Group member Ed A. Kotomori said he was initially unconvinced by the presentation and is hesitant to approve the Planned Development Area Master Plan.
“We’ll be greatly impacted by all of this, greatly. My intention is to protect my neighborhood and all my neighbors,” Kotomori said, to cheers from other Allstonians who attended the forum.
Alana Olsen, another Allston resident, said she was concerned by Harvard’s plan to build residential units on the Enterprise Research Campus land. She noted that under the plans presented Wednesday, a residential building would not have access to major roads or green space, and would be located next to a parking lot and construction area.
“It feels like an afterthought that was just thrown there,” Olsen said. “If you are going to build residential, let’s make it part of the neighborhood.”
Others said they were frustrated that Harvard representatives did not discuss another construction project, a billion-dollar plan to renovate the Massachusetts Turnpike, at the meeting. Some residents expressed concern that Harvard is not sufficiently addressing the Turnpike renovation project, and instead diverting attention to other areas in Allston.
“To say that they’re bringing this on...at the same time the [Department of Transportation] process is going on, shows a lack of understanding of what should be expected of the neighbors who live here,” said Allston resident Bruce E. Houghton.
In response, Casey said it is difficult for the University to control the timeline of the Massachusetts Turnpike project, because it falls under purview of the Mass. Department of Transportation.
Following discussion, Harvard officials and Allston residents said they would meet to further discuss the Planned Development Area Master Plan at a later date to be decided.
—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at email@example.com.
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