January 3, 2005
How do you meld an Ivy League campus
and a diverse neighborhood studded with light industry? As
Harvard University steps up preparations for a huge expansion
on the other side of the Charles River from Cambridge, the
city of Boston has also started working out a formula for
this urban alchemy, releasing its own plan for the area last
The university owns almost 350 acres of the Allston neighborhood
and plans to vastly enlarge its campus on this space, and
this summer hired New York firm Cooper, Robertson to produce
a framework conforming to the citys plans- for
the expansion. The plans in their current form advise on height,
density, building types and other issues, according to university
officials. The phased expansion, which will take place over
decades, will include housing, classroom, and lab facilities.
Cooper, Robertson recently tapped Frank Gehry and landscape
architect Lori Olin to contribute to the effort.
Meanwhile, the Boston Redevelopment Authority in December
released the final version of its strategic plan for the area,
North Allston, prepared by Boston firm Goody, Clancy &
Associates. Harvard, along with neighborhood groups and businesses
contributed to the city's plan. At press time, the mayor was
scheduled to release a final report (expected to be very similar)
this month. The proposed city guidelines aim to balance the
university's academic and residential needs with the surrounding
communitys, limiting building heights in populous areas,
preserving river views and open space and keeping the neighborhood
viable with affordable housing, job training and other economic
assistance, according to city officials. The plan also calls
for the preservation of 1, 2 and 3-family houses.
Another major issue is the plans impact on the neighborhood.
Rober Van Meter, Executive Director of the Allston Brighton
Community Development Corporation, stresses "that the
campus be permeable and accessible to the neighborhood.
The city's plan stresses the need to preserve local jobs and
provide transitional help for workers and local businesses
affected by Harvard's expansion, according to BRA officials.
Harvard's current presence in Allston includes its graduate
school of business, athletics complex, and service buildings.
"It sticks in the craw of some people who live and work
in the area that, to some extent, [Harvard officials] present
Allston to outside groups as an industrial wasteland, and
Harvard's going to remake it," Van Meter adds. "Certainly
there are unsightly industrial parcels, but it's also a healthy
There've been comments to the effect
that what's good for Harvard is good for greater Boston,"
he says. "There's substantial truth to that, but it's
Ted Smalley Bowen