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Boston Begins Planning New Neighborhood on Harvard-Owned Land in Allston

Boston officials have begun working with Harvard, Boston University, and Allston residents to begin envisioning a new neighborhood on 91 acres of Harvard-owned land in Allston.
Boston officials have begun working with Harvard, Boston University, and Allston residents to begin envisioning a new neighborhood on 91 acres of Harvard-owned land in Allston. By Julian J. Giordano
By Jina H. Choe and Jack R. Trapanick, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated: Tuesday, January 30 at 11:51 a.m.

The city of Boston is undergoing a planning process for Beacon Park Yard – a large tract of Harvard-owned land in Allston — which is set to be the site of a large highway and transit project.

As local officials seek to secure federal funding for the Allston Multimodal Project — an effort to realign a portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike that runs through Allston — they, alongside residents, are beginning to envision what will come after.

The realignment will open up a 91-acre lot of vacant land and highway for development, ultimately creating a new neighborhood in Beacon Park Yard on Harvard’s land.

The process is meant to create a basic picture for what that new neighborhood will look like at least a decade before its construction begins and bring together the interests of local players including Boston University, Harvard, the city and state governments, and Allston residents.

“The BPY Plan will establish a regional, community vision for dense urban development that provides the City capacity, landowner value, and community benefits to realize a transformational infrastructure and development project,” a Boston Planning and Development Agency spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.

“Our vision is inclusive and equitable infrastructure and development projects at Beacon Park Yard,” the spokesperson wrote.

Both the BPDA and other parties involved in the plan said that it would serve as a guide and a measure of accountability for the city, Harvard, and developers, ensuring that future development in the area will serve the interest of residents.

In an interview, Boston City Councilor Elizabeth A. “Liz” Breadon said Boston officials will play a key role in achieving that.

“The thing is up to the city,” Breadon said. “The city of Boston has to leverage whatever power they have to guide this process and hold Harvard accountable.”

Breadon said she would advocate for “mixed income housing, investments in green space, and climate resilience” during the planning process.

Harvard is also seeking air rights over the turnpike, which Breadon said would significantly increase the value of their land.

The process also serves as a mitigation benefit, negotiated by the University and the Harvard Allston Task Force, in order to receive approval for its Enterprise Research Campus. The city requires developers to offset the consequences of projects with benefits to the surrounding area.

The BPDA has held two events so far to solicit residents’ thoughts on the BPY project, including one last Wednesday.

The Allston Multimodal Propsect will involve redirecting a portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The Allston Multimodal Propsect will involve redirecting a portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike. By Boston Planning and Development Agency

The turnpike realignment, in the works for almost a decade, has been celebrated by residents and local leaders as a reunification of the neighborhood, which is currently divided by the highway. The project will also bring increased transit through a new commuter rail station and more bicycle infrastructure.

“The Allston Multimodal Project is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to knit together the Allston-Brighton neighborhood and, with the creation of West Station, to bring transformational connections across the region and beyond,” Harvard spokesperson Amy Kamosa wrote in a statement.

Boston University, a direct neighbor to the project area, also stands to benefit by becoming better connected to the Allston neighborhood.

“Someday in the future it could be an easy walk from Barry’s Corner to Commonwealth Avenue,” a spokesperson for BU wrote in an email. Commonwealth Avenue is where BU’s main campus is located and Barry’s Corner houses Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex.

The turnpike realignment is years away from beginning construction and is still awaiting federal funding. The state has applied for a federal grant available under the Inflation Reduction Act, although their previous application was rejected last year.

Last week, members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg ’04 in support of the state’s second application for funding. The Biden administration’s decision on the grant is expected in the coming weeks and months, according to city officials.

—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 X @jackrtrapanick.

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