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SEAS Allston Campus on Track to Open in 2020, Gay Says

Some of Harvard's land holdings in Allston.
Some of Harvard's land holdings in Allston. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Angela N. Fu and Lucy Wang, Crimson Staff Writers

Though some smaller details remain undecided, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is still set to complete its long-awaited move into Allston by September 2020, according to Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay.

“It's all on track and on time. Everyone's operating under the assumption that Fall 2020, it's going to be going back and forth [between the two campuses],” Gay said in an interview Wednesday.

Gay inherited the task of migrating a large portion of FAS across the river from former FAS Dean Michael D. Smith. Harvard recently put the final steel beam on the $1 billion-plus SEAS complex slated to house more than 1,800 researchers, students and faculty. Before stepping down over the summer, Smith met with the deans of SEAS and the Sciences to discuss the new campus, according to Gay.

After taking on the deanship this August, Gay began having her own conversations. She has held informal chats with SEAS faculty about how the move to Allston will affect individual SEAS departments.

She said the discussions have so far centered primarily on moving the school, which Gay has called “Phase One” of longer-term plans to develop the new Allston campus.

“I've actually been mainly having more informal conversations with SEAS faculty and thinking about what the expansion to Allston will mean, both kind of logistically about getting back and forth but also intellectually,” Gay said. “Phase One is just an extension of SEAS over to Allston as opposed to involving other parts of the University or the FAS for the time being. But who knows what Phase Two will hold.”

FAS has already begun making preparations for the opening of the new campus. Harvard rolled out a new schedule in preparation for the shift meant toallow students to move between campuses in the same class day.

Once the SEAS departments move to Allston, many current buildings will be left empty. Gay said that, as of now, she has no concrete plans for what to do with the empty space — though she called it a "once-in-a-century opportunity."

“This is not Stanford that seems to be tripping on land. Cambridge is, we are, very compressed on this side,” Gay said. “So when you get square footage open up at this scale, you want to make sure you're thinking in a really creative, frankly visionary way about how you use that space and how you make that space align with both current as well as emerging academic needs.”

Gay also noted that administrators probably won't decide the fate of the newly vacated spaces right after the move.

“It's hard to imagine kind of having a plan ready to go in 18 months because they're moving in 18 months,” Gay said. “So it seems very unlikely that we'll be up and ready to go that quickly.”

Gay said she sees the Allston campus as more than just an engineering hub for Harvard.

“I imagine that it will not be unlike this side of the river where it's mixed use... it's not just, say, sciences and SEAS. We also have humanities and social sciences so maybe we'll have something like that over there as well,” Gay said. “It's not just academic departments but it's also housing, and there are also restaurants, and there's daycare.”

—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.

—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22

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