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Ground-Breaking Ground Breaking In Allston

By Elizabeth X. Guo
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Harvard envisions its proposed Enterprise Research Campus in Allston as a global hub for innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship: The same principles must guide all stages of its development. As Harvard designs this new campus, it is sketching the blueprints for what environmentally sustainable, equitable development can look like in the 21st century.

Even though we could use Harvard’s help better understanding what purpose the ECR will fill in the context of the greater University (without using words that end in “-ation”), we do know quite a lot about the ERC’s development plan: According to the publicized plans, the ERC would stretch six acres and include a hotel, conference center, and two acres of green space.

Harvard’s chosen developer, Tishman Speyer, affirmed that sustainability will be at the heart of the project — the company shares Harvard’s goal to be fossil-fuel-free by 2050 and says it will design the ERC’s layout to maximize energy efficiency. Tishman Speyer has also committed to maintaining diversity and inclusion at all stages of development, referencing the intention to create opportunities for minority investors and reserve or subsidize a portion of the site’s retail for small, local, and/or minority-and-women-owned businesses.

Just a few years ago, plans prioritizing these aims might have seemed far-fetched or futuristic. Now, in an age of heightened awareness surrounding the persistent realities of racial injustice, neighborhood gentrification, gender disparities, and climate change, plans with this level of attentiveness are the only appropriate path.

While we are generally cautious of Harvard expanding into new neighborhoods, we cannot overlook the fact that University already owns this land, and developing it thoughtfully as opposed to just sitting on it will generate more tax revenue for local governments and more opportunities for Allston residents. In the spirit of innovation, we see this research campus as hopefully setting a precedent for what responsible development can look like.

We're excited by the prospect of green space, given its well-proven benefits for mental and physical health, carbon capture, and climate change mitigation. We hope such space is maximized: In short, more trees make us more pleased.

While we believe that the guiding principles of affordability and accessibility in the development plans seem admirable, along with local residents, we too would like more specifics on their implementation: Tishman Speyer promises that the campus will exceed the requirement that 13 percent of housing units meet an affordability standard — but by how much?

Having become all too acquainted with the perils of separation this past year, we love the idea of a new space designed for community engagement — but everyone must be able to access it. We echo the calls of community members for the ECR to be unequivocally safe and accessible for all residents, irrespective of age, income level, or disability.

Moving forward, community engagement will continue to be integral at every step of development. The more diverse and representative the voices collaborating to shape this development’s future, the more confident we can be that the ERC will meet the aspirations set for it, leaving no person or group behind.

Lastly, perhaps most notably absent from the development plans thus far and where we see the greatest room for progress is Harvard’s acknowledgment of the Indigenous land on which the buildings will be housed. Land acknowledgments should be more of a common practice at Harvard and are one of several crucial ways that the University can recognize the legacy of settler colonialism and express gratitude for the Indigenous people who have stewarded the land for hundreds of generations. This development is an opportunity to pave the way for Harvard’s campus, in general, to be more aware of the original inhabitants and caretakers of the University’s land. Going forward, new developments should be made in consultation with nearby Indigenous populations, whom the University should treat as an integral stakeholder.

Overall, Tishman Speyer’s statements and layouts are promising indicators of a thoughtful, progressive approach to the development’s design. Of course, the project’s auspicious start should breed ambition, rather than complacency. It is critical that the ERC’s planners do not stay satisfied with its early attempts at ethical stewardship, and rather continue to leave no stone unturned in making sure that this development will serve all members of the community.

New developments ought to groundbreaking — both literally and figuratively. This means that all decisions must be filtered through the lenses of equity and environmental sustainability. We are excited to see Harvard prioritizing this approach with the new campus, but will be holding our breath until these promises are made concrete.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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