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BPDA Approves Harvard's Initial Plans for ‘Enterprise’ Campus

Boston’s urban planning agency approved Harvard’s preliminary proposal for a portion of its “Enterprise Research Campus,” a 36-acre University-owned plot of Allston land Harvard hopes to develop into a hub for entrepreneurship, at a board meeting last week.

Harvard first debuted its proposal for an “enterprise research campus” in 2011. The University hired real estate agent Steven D. Fessler to lead the construction of the area in April 2016. In Dec. 2017, Harvard officially filed a Planned Development Area Master Plan with the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

The plan the BPDA approved last week describes the development goals and intended uses for a particular 14.1-acre portion of the “Enterprise Research Campus,” allocating 400,000 square feet of land for office space, 250,000 square feet for residential space, and room for approximately 800 parking spaces.

In the proposal, University officials wrote Harvard hopes the campus will facilitate a pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment while also promoting sustainable architecture.

The BPDA board voted to approve the plan 4-1 last Thursday evening.

University spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in a press release Friday that BPDA approval represents “the first of many steps” in Harvard’s efforts to develop the campus.

“There will be several future regulatory filings and associated public review,” O’Rourke wrote. “The University will be partnering with third parties for development proposals in the first 14 acres, and that process will provide specific details on the design and programs of individual projects.”

University President Drew G. Faust said in the press release that the University’s plans reflect its “longstanding commitment” to advancing the expansion of knowledge and discovery.

Faust said she hopes the new campus will promote collaboration within the Harvard community as well as with groups off campus.

“We look forward to seeing the ways in which bringing other organizations in close proximity to campus will strengthen the University—and the entire region—in exciting and unexpected ways,” Faust said.

Harvard Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp said in the press release that the feedback Harvard received from Allston community meetings “informed and strengthened” the University’s goal to of facilitating innovation in the region.

Nonetheless, some state officials and Allston residents say they are concerned by Harvard’s newly approved plans.

Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo and state representatives Kevin G. Honan and Michael J. Moran wrote a letter to BPDA board members last Thursday, the same day as the vote, urging them to “go on the record in opposition” to Harvard’s plan for the enterprise research campus.

The officials wrote they believed there was “insufficient consensus” in the Allston community. Ciommo, Honan, and Moran called on Harvard to “further discuss and resolve outstanding issues” with local residents before forging ahead.

Allstonian Max Rome said he believes the officials’ letter had a “big impact” on the BPDA board. But he said he thinks Harvard’s plans had too much momentum going into the vote.

“It’s just incredibly difficult to slow down a project that has so much momentum behind it. I think by the time a project comes to the board, unless there’s something really egregiously wrong about it, the path of least resistance is to definitely move forward,” he said.

Across the past month, Allstonians have spoken out against what they call a dearth of affordable housing and green spaces in Harvard’s plans.

In an email Friday, Allstonian Harry E. Mattison wrote he continues to question Harvard’s plans to promote sustainability. He specifically mentioned Harvard’s plans to introduce approximately 800 new parking spaces.

"Are Harvard's existing 4,000 parking spaces in Allston not enough?” he wrote. “It is too bad that Harvard's ambitious environmental goals apparently don't apply to how people will commute to its Enterprise Research Campus.”

Other residents, including Troy Brogan, noted that Harvard’s developmental plans are still in the preliminary stages. Brogan said he thinks there are still opportunities for Harvard to introduce “innovative” housing policies later in the process.

“We’re fortunate to have Harvard as the entity developing it,” Brogan said. “They have such a great track record so far in both Cambridge and Boston, there’s a lot of reason for optimism that it will exceed expectations and be a great project.”

O’Rourke wrote in an emailed statement Friday that the University anticipates working further with Allston residents to “advance many of the commitments the community requested.”

“We look forward to continuing our discussions with the community and the city, and to working towards a shared vision for a vibrant, welcoming, inclusive Allston,” she wrote.

—Staff writer Truelian Lee can be reached at truelian.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @truelian_lee.

—Staff writer Jacqueline P. Patel can be reached at jacqueline.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @jppatel99.

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