UPDATED: April 2, 2015, at 3:01 p.m.
What’s an Allston?
Allston is not a thing, but rather a location. Allston is a neighborhood in Boston which runs along the southern edge of the Charles River. Allston is collectively administered with the neighborhood of Brighton, and together they have a population of almost 60,000. For reference, Harvard’s athletic complex resides in Allston.
What’s all this talk about Harvard in Allston?
The University sees Allston as a massive opportunity to expand and has invested billions of dollars in the neighborhood. The original plans for development of the area were released in 2003 by then University President Lawrence H. Summers. The nine-project Institutional Master Plan, published in 2013, has current plans for 1.4 million square feet of new construction, 500,000 square feet of renovations, retail and residential commons, and a new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences complex.
That sounds amazing, right?
Well, not everything is always perfect. While the influx of cash from Harvard could help Allston develop, many citizens are frustrated with the way the University has handled many topics. In 2009, the University decided to halt construction due to the financial crisis. In 2013, a scaled-back version of the plan was reannounced.
Is that the only reason Allstonians are frustrated?
Again, no. People from Allston are upset with a number of things. Arguably, the most salient issue Allstonians take with Harvard’s development is that many residents feel that their opinions are not adequately being listened to by the University. The Harvard-Allston Task Force, an advisory board the Boston Redevelopment Authority charged with acting as a liaison between the neighborhood, the city, and the University, exists as a forum for citizens to voice their concerns, but recent news about Boston University speaking behind closed doors have some residents feeling anxious about transparency.
So what should we anticipate to come out of Allston?
Allston is expanding immensely right now, which of course brings with it some issues. With that said, we can expect Allston to become an important node for education, research, and economic activity. The Harvard I-lab is currently working out of Allston, the Ed Portal just recently opened the doors of its new facility, and the projects Harvard has lined up promise to transform Allston into an innovative neighborhood.