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Harvard Addresses Allstonians’ Development Concerns

Allston Construction
Construction underway in Allston.

University representatives released a letter amending Harvard’s Allston development proposal earlier this month in response to concerns filed recently by local residents and organizations.

Harvard first proposed developing its land in Allston into an ‘enterprise research’ campus to promote entrepreneurship in 2011. In April 2016, the University hired real estate agent Steven D. Fessler to manage construction of the area as the “head of enterprise real estate.”

In Dec. 2017, Harvard officially filed its framework and filed development area master plans for the entire campus with the Boston Planning and Development Agency, the city’s urban planning body. Local residents were able to submit responses to the BPDA during its official comment period, which ended in early February.

Various local residents and organizations filed comments to the BPDA, raising concerns about housing, infrastructure, transportation, and open space.

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The Impact Advisory Group, a team responsible for advising the development project which meets semi-regularly to discuss Harvard’s plans, wrote that it “cannot currently support the project as it is currently proposed.”

The IAG specifically called upon Harvard to offer a more diverse range of housing options. It recommended the University plan for one-third of its residential options to be market-rate, one-third to be middle income, and one-third to be a mix of affordable housing units and housing for families and the elderly.

In its response letter, the University said current plans for residential spaces are subject to change and will evolve as Harvard works with future development partners.

Currently, the University has committed “upwards of 1,000” units of housing. The letter also noted that 13 percent of the enterprise research construction projects would be classified as affordable according to the city’s housing affordability policy.

Harvard wrote that it believed its residential housing plans will establish “a new, vibrant area where the presence of a diversity of active uses and participants leads to a thriving community of workers, residents, business owners, and neighbors.”

The IAG also recommended Harvard create an additional two acres of “compelling” open spaces early on in the construction process, calling for more park-like spaces. The group outlined its hopes for Harvard to tailor its plans to deemphasize vehicular traffic and better support walking, bike, and public transit infrastructure.

In response to requests for more open and integrated spaces, Harvard proposed adding two addition acres of open space and increasing bike and pedestrian paths in its Allston plans.

“The amount of open space in the Framework Plan has been increased by approximately two acres and includes an additional continuous east-west connection to the east towards the Charles River,” the document reads.

The University noted that it had reached an agreement with Houghton Chemical to remove the company’s rail lines, which will also help add open space.

University spokesperson Kevin Casey wrote in an emailed statement Tuesday that he believes the public comment period has been a positive process.

“The University’s responses reflect comments received over seven IAG meetings since November. We feel this has been an exceptionally productive process—resulting in tangible modifications of the plan,” he wrote.

“We look forward to discussing our letter and any remaining issues on Wednesday night," he added.

—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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