Friday, January 12, 2007

Harvard Outlines Plans to Expand Campus Across the Charles River

The New York Times

Harvard Outlines Plans to Expand Campus Across the Charles River
Published: January 12, 2007

BOSTON, Jan. 11 — Harvard University released details on Thursday of a multibillion-dollar plan to expand from Cambridge across the Charles River to the Allston neighborhood of Boston. The university wants to transform more than 200 acres into a second, more modern, Harvard Square, with retail space, academic buildings, athletic and cultural facilities and student housing.

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Aerial photograph courtesy of MassGIS
Harvard’s proposed expansion project
would take 50 years to finish.

Harvard's Proposed Expansion

Harvard officials said they expected the project to take 50 years and to create 14,000 to 15,000 permanent jobs in an industrial part of the neighborhood that abuts a quiet residential one. They hope to break ground on a science building and arts center by the end of the year.

The proposal still must go through a public review and requires city approval.
“This plan is intended to give the city of Boston and the community a preliminary sense of the kind of development that will take place in Allston,” said Harvard’s interim president, Derek Bok.

The plan calls for placing Soldiers Field Road, a main artery that runs along the Charles River, underground, so pedestrians and students living in new dormitories on its banks can have easier access to the Cambridge campus.

The Harvard Business School and the university’s football stadium are already in Allston. The plans would create 30 acres of open space on land now covered with asphalt and transform some streets into wide pedestrian boulevards where people could stroll under canopies of trees.

The Allston campus would also be the base for the university’s athletic and science research facilities.

Harvard is looking to anchor the Allston campus around Barry’s Corner, an intersection that now has a gas station and a Dunkin’ Donuts. The plan calls for the area to be home to numerous retail shops, a performance center and a public plaza. Officials envision it as being the link between the residential neighborhood, which lies on one side, and the campus on the other.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino praised the plan, saying, “The community will benefit with the job creation efforts and new amenities.”

Not everyone in the neighborhood is so sure. Residents said many questions remained unanswered.

“Folks in the community are trying to figure out how Harvard’s growth can coexist with a vital urban neighborhood, and I think there’s still a lot of unanswered questions on that,” said Bob Van Meter, president of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, which has been closely watching the developments. “This is one document today in a whole series of documents that have been developed and filed over the last several years.”

A neighborhood resident, Harry Mattison, said he feared the changes could cut Barry’s Corner off from the campus and the river, rather than unify it.

“Is this something that’s good for everyone?” asked Mr. Mattison, who runs a community blog. “Will the Harvard money and expertise bring everyone up, or does it draw a line? Could it be that they’ll be divided by not that much distance, but in some ways be miles apart?”

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