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Harvard Presents New 10-Year Plan for Allston Campus at City Meeting

Harvard began the yearlong process of filing a new Institutional Master Plan for its property in Allston last Tuesday.
Harvard began the yearlong process of filing a new Institutional Master Plan for its property in Allston last Tuesday. By Emma A. Lucas
By Jina H. Choe and Jack R. Trapanick, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard began the yearlong process of filing a new Institutional Master Plan for its Allston holdings last Tuesday, sketching out major renovation and construction plans for the next decade.

During the city meeting, hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency, Harvard representatives announced six major projects totaling 138,000 square feet of renovation and 720,000 square feet of new construction — totaling approximately half the area of the 2013 IMP.

Generally renewed every 10 years, IMPs aim to keep expansions by Boston’s large nonprofit institutions — such as hospitals and universities — transparent and favorable to the area around them, especially if they involve residential neighborhoods. They requires institutions to document what they own or are planning to build, how that will impact the neighborhood, and what they’ll do to offset those impacts.

State Representative Kevin G. Honan and State Senator William N. Brownsberger ’78, whose districts cover parts of Allston, were both in attendance at the public meeting.

Harvard’s main holdings subject to the IMP are concentrated in Lower Allston and include the athletic buildings and fields, Harvard Business School, and the Science and Engineering Complex.

Three projects were previously approved in the 2013 plan: an HBS office building; a Harvard Stadium renovation; and the “Gateway Project,” a mixed-use building with ground floor retail and upper facilities for academic use. The other three projects are a tennis and squash racquet center; a Crimson Catering kitchen facility; and the Mignone Field Support Building, which will house visitor amenities, athletic staff offices, and locker rooms for women’s rugby.

The new IMP process also means Allston residents will have a means of negotiating community benefits from Harvard.

Following an initial comment period, Harvard will spend months preparing and filing the IMP before undergoing another comment period. Finally, the University will submit the IMP to the BPDA Board for approval.

Harvard staff responsible for the project said they hope the process will take around one year.

Harvard’s IMPs covers its academic campus but not its commercial properties — such as the developing Enterprise Research Campus — or regional planning for Beacon Park Yards, a swath of unused land holdings.

Its 2013 IMP proposed nine projects, including several Business School buildings, a hotel and conference center, and a basketball stadium south of Harvard Stadium.

During the meeting, residents raised concerns about Harvard’s continued development into Allston.

Anthony P. D’Isidoro, president of Allston’s main neighborhood association, asked if the University’s IMP “guarantees” residents that Harvard would not increase its holdings in the neighborhood by “any substantial amount.”

“At some point, it becomes a little bit not only unsettling, but a little bit domineering to assume so much of a presence in one community,” he said, noting that Harvard already owns one-third of all land in Allston.

Mark Handley, Harvard’s director of community relations, said the University “hasn’t made a significant land or building purchase in well over 15 years.”

He added that any further addition to Harvard’s IMP area would require an amendment, subject to similar regulatory processes as the original plan.

Some residents voiced frustrations with Harvard’s local engagement.

One attendee, Ali Iaria, criticized Harvard and the BPDA for their methods of outreach, which are currently limited to neighborhood email lists and posts on BPDA’s website.

“I feel like there needs to be more sources to access this information and provide comments,” Iaria said. “We can do stuff in the library in multiple languages, suggestion boxes.”

“If we really want this to be representative, then that process also has to be representative,” she added.

—Staff writer Jina H. Choe can be reached at jina.choe@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Jack R. Trapanick can be reached at jack.trapanick@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jackrtrapanick.

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