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Developers Present Plans for Residential, Retail Space at Harvard-Allston Task Force

A public space in Allston.
A public space in Allston. By Evan T. Arnold
By Taylor C. Peterman, Crimson Staff Writer

Developers presented plans for a mixed-use building in Allston at a Monday meeting with the Harvard-Allston Task Force and Impact Advisory Group.

The seven-story building, which will be known as Barry’s Corner Residential and constructed at 180 Western Ave., will house restaurants, retail spaces, and 270 residential units.

Allston residents and Harvard affiliates sit on the task force, which advises on Harvard’s developments in Allston in addition to the 180 Western Ave. project. The body works with the Boston Planning and Development Agency and Impact Advisory Group to analyze the effects of development on the neighborhood.

At Monday’s meeting, David P. Manfredi, CEO and founding principal of Elkus Manfredi Architects, presented the project’s main goals — placemaking and public realm, inclusivity, and sustainability and resilience.

“Barry’s Corner is the center. It’s not the rest of Western Ave. or the rest of North Harvard Street; it is this walkable center,” Manfredi said. “We want to create a sense of inclusivity that provides new housing types, as well as small-scale retail.”

“We believe that a big part of sustainability is, in fact, economic, and that is about creating retail as a community amenity, designing for health and well-being,” he also said.

Manfredi also cited the project’s adherence to the Boston Compact Living Pilot, which he said supports affordability and sustainability.

The City of Boston outlines several requirements for compact living through the pilot. They include “well-designed units with storage and natural light, shared common areas, and transportation options that reduce car use,” per a city government website.

Manfredi told meeting attendees that the project will promote “green space” and open space for the public. To that end, the construction will increase the number of trees lining the streets to 23, reduce curb cuts, increase sidewalk square footage, and designate more space for outdoor dining. The proposal would also designate spaces for parked cars and bikes for housing unit residents.

Julia Wynyard, vice president of Samuels and Associates — the developer responsible for the proposal — divulged rental prices for different units in the building at the meeting. Studios will start at least $2,200 per month, she said, while three-bedroom units will fetch a monthly rate of $4,500 and upwards.

Some task force members responded to Wynyard’s proposal with concerns regarding the affordability of the residential spaces.

“The affordability issue is very personal with me,” said Anthony P. D’Isidoro, an Allston resident and president of the Allston Civic Association. “I can’t stand when I have especially young people coming up to me and saying their goodbyes to me because they can’t afford to live in Allston-Brighton anymore.”

Others attendees questioned the prudence of opening a retail center during the pandemic-induced recession.

“There are quite a few either empty retail spaces or places that have had to close down because of COVID whether that’s temporary or even permanent,” Christine Varriale, a member of the Harvard-Allston Task Force, said. “There’s still an empty retail space on the corner of Continuum that has never had anything in it in the five years that the building has been opened. There’s empty spaces at Charles View.”

Varriale suggested reducing the cost of rent in the building to incentivize stores to move to Allston.

D’Isidoro told The Crimson after the meeting that there is demand for small businesses within the neighborhood.

“The retail thing is really picking up,” he said. “That’s coming from the fact that more and more people in the community [want] to have a vibrant retail experience.”

Wynyard said though it is still early to engage retailers, her team is considering how to attract businesses that are local or “starting out.”

In an emailed statement, Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote the proposed project will make “significant contributions” to the neighborhood. She added that the University will continue to engage with developers, the task force, and Allston residents as the project moves forward.

Correction: December 9, 2020

A previous version of this article misspelled Julia Wynyard's surname.

—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at taylor.peterman@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.

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