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Harvard's Plans for Allston

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Harvard mulls over many plans for Allston sites

By Casey Lyons / Correspondent

Friday, May 28, 2004

Long considered one of the premier institutions in the nation, Harvard may be looking to further extend its academic graces into Allston. Recently, Harvard faculty task forces released several plans for the school's future on this side of the Charles.

Focusing on four critical areas, the reports represent the first planning phases of what will be a multi-decade project.

"The product of university-wide collaboration among members of Harvard's faculties, these reports offer a range of proposals in the areas of science and technology, professional schools, Allston life and undergraduate life," according to a Harvard press release. "Not all of these ideas will become reality, and no doubt some ideas not yet articulated will be forthcoming. But these reports contain many ideas that will help shape Harvard in the decades to come."

The reports target Harvard's 200 acres of North Allston land that the university has acquired or purchased over the last 20 years, said Harvard spokeswoman Lauren Marshall.

Currently, Harvard has its business school, athletic facilities and some offices in Allston.

"The breadth and depth of thinking in these reports underscore the willingness of people from across Harvard to think boldly and enthusiastically about Allston," said Harvard's president, Lawrence H. Summers.

"We look forward to continuing broad discussions within the university in the months ahead as we engage a planning firm to consider who these ideas might be translated into first-phase physical plans, and as we carry forward our close collaboration with Mayor Menino and the Allston community on this exciting project that holds so much promise for Harvard and the city of Boston," she said.

While many of the ideas require further exploration, the reports highlight some of Harvard's key goals for the future.

For Allston life, the faculty task force examined three options for museums or performing arts venues in Allston, including the possibility of new facilities for the performing and visual arts; a new space for the Museum of Natural History; and graduate school housing.

"We have tried to present some conceptual frameworks to help plan for an integrated campus - an extension of Harvard in Allston," said Dennis Thompson, professor of government and chairman of both the University Physical Planning Committee and the Allston Life Task Force. "We do not want to establish a satellite campus in Allston, but rather create a single campus in which the river is an attractive center piece rather than a forbidding obstacle."

"Equally important," his press release statement continued, "Allston should provide an environment that is welcoming to the Allston's longtime residents, as well as its new residents who will include members of the Harvard community."

Professional school considerations include facilities for the school of education and the school of public health.

The science and technology task force took up the need for additional space and determined the needs to keep up with the accelerating rate of science, create new labs that are multidisciplinary in physical design and maintain three vital scientific centers in Cambridge, Allston and Longwood.

"Harvard has, by its history, always been striving to be a leader in the critical areas of knowledge," said Provost Steven Hyman, chairman of the Science and Technology Task Force in a press release, "and we would be abdicating our role as intellectual leaders if we didn't do everything in our power to make it possible for our faculty to move into new areas or approach teaching and research in new ways."

For undergraduate life, the task force considered constructing new undergraduate housing in Allston, extending academic opportunities through increased lab space and making extracurricular activities such as a performance center, library or recreation center in Allston.

In all, the faculty task forces produced many ideas and proposals in keeping with Harvard's long-term goals. In the next phases, Harvard will continue to sort through ideas from the reports and work towards a more concrete plan; there has not yet been any talk about projected timelines for construction.

From The Allston-Brighton Tab

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Harvard could make this into a great area. Too bad they have not done a very good job in the past with their big plans. There is a lot of resistance to Harvard's new buildings now because they are often big and ugly. It's really a shame becasue they have the money to have great buildings designed and built.

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It seems all people have been happy with are the buildings in which they try to recreate history (at least the public is happy with them, architecture critics may not).

The Lower Allston/North Brighton area could be a really dynamic neighbourhood, if Harvard can just find the right direction to take it in, and if the NIMBYs can be stifled.

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Look at the future

By Erin Smith/ Staff Writer | Friday, December 17, 2004

So you consider yourself a native North Allstonian?

You may know which neighborhood restaurant serves the best cup of coffee, where to find a pick-up game of baseball on a Sunday afternoon or how to navigate the quickest driving route from the library to Union Square now, but will you recognize your home in a few decades?

After four years of planning, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has released the first draft of the North Allston Neighborhood Strategic Plan, a potential 50-year vision into the future for the neighborhood, designed by Harvard University, the city and community members.

The plan is rooted in a 1997 public outcry, when the city learned that Harvard owned 52 acres of North Allston land which the university admitted to secretly buying through its real estate development firm, the Beals Companies, since 1988.

Today, Harvard owns approximately 344 acres of North Allston land. Harvard's properties include 140 acres of the existing business school campus and athletic field, as well as the Brighton Mills Shopping Center, the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center and the 91-acre South Beacon Rail Yard.

The future vision of North Allston is a timeline analyzing the community's and university's housing needs, transportation congestion and ways of sustaining the neighborhood's job economy, while painting a vivid picture of new buildings, parks and streets.

Brighton Mills, the largely vacant strip mall on Western Avenue with a dominating four-acre parking lot, would become a pedestrian-friendly shopping district with Harvard University buildings and approximately 500 rental and condominium units with structured parking and "attractive public squares."

Barry's Corner, the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue now flanked by gas stations, would transform into a busy retail main street with improved pedestrian access to Harvard Square.

Potential plans also include an expanded civic center and community housing behind the Honan-Allston Library; graduate student housing on Western Avenue and near Smith Field; and added landscaping and parks. The plan also calls for selected redevelopment between Western Avenue and Soldiers Field Road from Smith Field to Market Street with improved pedestrian access to the Charles River from Smith Field, Telford Road, Leo M. Birmingham Parkway and near Richardson Street. The city is also studying the possibility of adding three new MBTA stops to the neighborhood.

But a bullet point on paper does not necessarily translate into development. Harvard officials are careful to call the document "a guided planning exercise," and community members are quick to point out Harvard is not exempt from city zoning requirements. The community will continue to scrutinize each individual building project, said Paul Berkeley, president of the Allston Civic Association.

Drastic change to the face of North Allston could be decades away. The university is negotiating with the state over land-use conflicts at the university's target site for campus expansion, the South Beacon Rail Yard, a massive piece of land bordering Western Avenue, Cambridge Street and the Charles River. Harvard's lawyers are currently involved in a lengthy litigation process to oust Kmart out of Brighton Mills and discard its lease, which remains valid for at least the next two decades.

Harvard also has yet to file an Institutional Master Plan, the first necessary step for any college wishing to developing in Boston. The university plans to file a master plan with the city outlining their first development proposals within the next year, after Goody, Clancy and Associates, the consulting firm hired by Harvard, completes design plans, said Harris Band, director of Physical Planning at Harvard Planning and Allston Initiative.

The final draft of the North Allston Neighborhood Strategic Plan is expected in February after the public comment period ends in mid-January. City officials plan to post a copy of the draft on the BRA Web site after the first of the year.

Comment or questions on the draft can be sent to Jansi Chandler at: [email protected] or ATTN: Jansi Chandler, One City Hall Square, Room 936, Boston, MA 02201

From The Allston-Brighton TAB

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from the Allston-Brighton TAB Friday, January 28, 2005

"Harvard reveals N. Allston invasion plans"

By Erin Smith/ Staff Writer

Harvard University readied to welcome itself to the neighborhood last week.

North Allstonians weighed in on Harvard's massive building plans last Thursday, in what the university hopes will be the first in ongoing public hearings before the university files an Institutional Master Plan with the city by this fall.

"It would be disingenuous to say Harvard sat back and waited for the [North Allston Neighborhood Strategic Plan] to be completed," said Kathy Spiegelman, the associate vice president of Harvard Planning and Real Estate.

Last month, the Boston Redevelopment Authority released the first draft of the strategic plan, a 50-year vision of the future of the neighborhood, designed by Harvard University, the city and community members.

But Harvard had already hired urban designers Cooper, Robertson & Partners of New York City as consultants last summer, and the firm plans to present Harvard with construction options this spring.

Plan shaped

The university will also use community suggestions and the strategic plan to shape the master plan, Harvard officials said.

David McGregor, managing director of Cooper, Robertson & Partners, sought to reassure residents that Harvard's 10-year plan may not call for developing a large majority of the university's land in Allston.

Harvard is negotiating with the state over land-use conflicts on the South Beacon Rail Yard, 91 acres of land bordering Western Avenue, Cambridge Street and the Charles River. Harvard also owns the Genzyme Corp. plant, but the laboratory has a long lease and is unavailable for immediate development.

But a lease won't stop the university from tearing down another building in North Allston: the former Sears warehouse at 115 Cambridge St. Critics see the warehouse's imminent destruction, as quickly as the coming weeks, as proof of Harvard's plans to develop massively.

McGregor told the public that Western Avenue and North Harvard Street would be an ideal setting for a "town center," because the intersection is the border between the neighborhood and Harvard. McGregor also hinted that the graduates school for Education and Harvard School of Public Health could be moved to Western Avenue.

More dorms

Some residents were unhappy when McGregor alluded to new student housing along the Charles River near Harvard Stadium, saying that the university promised not to build student housing in Allston when the planning began four years ago.

Harvard spokesman Kevin McCluskey said Harvard never made any promises to exclude student housing from Allston. Officials said they could "never envision" housing near the rail yards, said McCluskey.

McGregor also noted that consultants are searching for ways to drain the large amounts of standing groundwater on Smith Field and investigating ways to improve pedestrian access to the Charles.

Tim McHale, a Litchfield Street resident, suggested Harvard build an underpass on Soldiers Field Road from Smith Field to Telford Street to create an unobstructed grassy path from the neighborhood to the river.

"We always talk about bringing the community to the river, but why not bring the river to the community?" said McHale.

BRA weighs in

The BRA plans to release the final copy of the strategic plan in next few months, but some residents worry that the draft does not reflect four years of planning and that community suggestions were ignored.

Planning group members, who helped draft the NANSP, are working with the BRA to schedule another board meeting to revise the draft before the final document is released.

The plan, which includes university campus buildings, shopping districts, parks and new streets, is rooted in a 1997 public outcry, when the city learned that Harvard secretly bought 52 acres of North Allston land over 10 years through the Beals Companies.

Harvard's development consulting team includes Cooper, Robertson & Partners, Frank O. Gehry and Associates of Los Angeles (urban design and architecture), Olin Partnership of Philadelphia (landscape architecture), Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. of Watertown (transportation design), Atelier Ten of London (sustainability design), Judy Nitsch Engineering of Boston and RMF Engineering Inc.

Allston-Brighton TAB Friday, January 28, 2005

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Volume 2, Issue 4 January 27, 2005

"Harvard opens plans to public at forum"

Matuya Brand

Bulletin Staff

Harvard and Allstonians congregated

yet again on Thursday, Jan. 20 when the

university invited residents to meet the

consultant hired to create a framework

for its future development in Allston.

The meeting, held at the North

Allston Branch of the Boston Public

Library, allowed the consultant, David

McGregor of Cooper Robertson & Partners

and the community to directly address

each other. Following a presentation

by McGregor, the community discussed

the various concerns that remain

for Harvard

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"Allston planners hear community voices

Community meeting draws many area residents"

By Alvin Powell

Harvard News Office

An Allston community meeting Jan. 20 gave Harvard's Allston neighbors a chance to voice opinions on the area's future, touching on everything from access to open space to traffic congestion to the location of utilities.

The meeting, at the Boston Public Library's Honan-Allston Branch, was the latest of several public sessions on the Allston development and was organized by Harvard to give the University's Allston development planning firm, Cooper, Robertson & Partners, a chance to hear firsthand the opinions of neighbors on pending development in the area.

"We want to have as much dialogue as possible before we determine specifics so that the plan won't be full of surprises, full of things that won't get community support, and things of which people would say, 'I could have told you [that wouldn't work],'" said Chief University Planner and Director of the Allston Initiative Kathy Spiegelman.

Harvard Planning and the Allston Initiative's Director of Physical Planning Harris Band kicked the meeting off. He told the 80 or so audience members that with the North Allston Neighborhood Strategic Framework for Planning nearing completion, the University was entering a new phase in the extensive planning effort for Harvard's future Allston development.

Band said the next phase will take the general guidelines in the North Allston Neighborhood Strategic Framework for Planning and begin to craft a more specific vision of the future that incorporates both neighborhood input and Harvard's goals of enhancing teaching and research.

This phase will result in an institutional master plan, which will begin to lay out specifics about the Allston development, such as building locations, open space, utilities, and traffic improvements.

Spiegelman was careful to note that not all the land Harvard owns in Allston will be available for development in the next 10 years such as the rail yards south of Western Avenue.

David McGregor, Cooper, Robertson & Partners' managing director, presented an overview of the firm's observations about the area so far, and offered some broad observations.

A first observation, McGregor said, is that the area's open space is difficult to reach because much of it is located along the Charles River and cut off by busy Soldiers Field Road. One resident suggested depressing a section of the roadway to provide broader access.

Looking at the community's physical layout, McGregor said the most obvious place where the community and the University would meet is the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue. That location, he said, would be a good place to have a town center type of development.

With regard to traffic and transportation, McGregor described his observations that congestion is worst at the several intersections with Soldiers Field Road, where local traffic has to contend with commuters traveling from the suburbs into Boston. Truck traffic on local roads is another issue. These are things that will be considered when Harvard looks at opportunities to create transportation connections between academic buildings that will be located in Allston and the Cambridge and Longwood Medical area campuses. McGregor said the short-term solution would likely be bus shuttle services. Residents asked to be included in any such plan as a way to ease their trip to the Red Line subway station in Harvard Square. One suggested that Allston residents be allowed to ride Harvard shuttles.

Residents also raised a concern that the high water table makes the existing open space wet and unusable at times. McGregor said the flat, low-lying land is very wet and suggested that a canal or other water feature could be used to help drain the land.

Wrapping up a constructive meeting, McGregor emphasized, "We don't have the answers, but we think we see some of the problems."

Spiegelman said that the University will continue its dialogue with the Allston community throughout the planning process and in future meetings that will be scheduled in the coming months.

[email protected]


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I can't wait for them to get craking on this. I lived in Allston Village for years, there's so much potential in Lower Allston and North Brighton.

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Harvard Magazine March-April 2005

John Harvard's Journal


"Parallel Universities"

Even as Harvard's planning consultants conclude the private phase of their development grid for Allston, it is possible to get a sense of their thinking about this prospective new campus. And a huge academic development rising rapidly at the opposite edge of the continent, in San Francisco's Mission Bay, makes tangible what kinds of challenges and choices Harvard faces in the near future.

The 43-acre University of California at San Francisco's Mission Bay site today, with the city and the Bay Bridge beyond. A biomedical research campus is rising on an Allston-like site formerly occupied by warehouses and railyards.


Above: The same site in March 2003 reveals how rapidly development there has progressed.

Photographs courtesy of the University of California at San Francisco

Since Cooper, Robertson & Partners were hired last spring to create a framework for future development in Allston -- they are scheduled to report by the end of the academic year -- they have quietly assessed the property, infrastructure, and Harvard's academic plans. But firm principal Alex Cooper shared some of his views on campus planning generally in a November talk at the Graduate School of Design.

One of the keys to successful public projects, he noted, is that "the table be set first," whether by connecting the lobbies of future buildings underground as at Times Square, or by laying out roads and parks as at Hudson Yards, also in Manhattan, where the streets were built with holes left for the developers. Sustainable development starts with infrastructure. Implicit in this introduction was the notion that Allston is a city-building project that, to succeed, will require the cooperation of Boston, the state, local residents, and hARother stakeholders.

Turning to the immediate assignment, Cooper outlined a series of campus archetypes from the English model, as at Oxford, to the dense urban campus typified by Columbia. Between these, he said, are wide variations in size and density. Looking just at the Ivy League, Yale at two and a half miles long is twice the length of the present Harvard in Cambridge and Allston. And the number of square feet per student ranges from 340 at Columbia up to 1,300 at Princeton, neatly bracketing Harvard's total of 739.

Campus planners face seven generic issues, Cooper continued; the toughest is the question of campus character. "Everyone wants to know what it will look like," from faculty members to donors. The red brick and white-framed windows of Harvard's Cambridge campus have been transplanted across the river by the Business School, whose campus he called "very corporate" and "not at all dense." "It is hard to imagine the language of McKim, Mead and White traveling very far," he said, hinting at least at what is not likely to happen in Allston. MIT, by contrast, he termed "very institutional," with large streets and large buildings.

The second important planning issue, key for Allston, is the question of connections. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte built a loop road and garages, and began to understand what it could create based on the roads. Yale planners worked to develop a system of pedestrian walkways. Pedestrian connections will certainly be an important part of Allston, and probably shuttle buses, but Cooper didn't rule out other forms of transport. How Harvardians cross the Charles to Allston may well involve the business school campus, University planners have previously hinted, noting that it is roads rather than the river that present obstacles to pedestrians. (One citizen's group has even suggested construction of a tunnel to divert traffic from surface roads along the river.)

Historic settings are the third campus planning issue. Duke's original buildings, for example, were constructed entirely of special stone from a single quarry; there is none left. But with clever use of materials, it is possible to evoke the earlier buildings by simulating Dukestone, and using a close match for the trim.

Fourth, Cooper listed "opportunity sites," as at UCLA, where an open-space evaluation turned up lots of places where new buildings could rise, thus diminishing the need for a new campus. Combined with selective demolition, he said, lots of space can often be found.

Town and gown relationships invariably confront campus planners. Under this rubric, Cooper spoke first about the way institutional architecture meets the surrounding built environment. The Sorbonne in Paris, where one community dissolves into the other, is a perfect town-gown fit. Harvard Square, he said, is the same way, making the town-gown issue vanish, at least from an architectural perspective. Politically, he acknowledged, town-gown relationships are "usually fractious."

Cooper termed "stewardship of place" a sixth concern. In a relatively pristine setting, that means preserving natural wonders. But landscapes can also be improved by new construction: at Yale, a sewer project presented the opportunity to create new paths and parks.

Finally comes the issue of security, for residents and for specialty workers. "There will be a lot of science in Allston," said Cooper, and "scientists, like architects, often work late into the night."

Following his presentation, Cooper fielded questions about transportation, the river, and the landscape. "The river will not be moved," he said, laughing, "despite Rem's suggestion." (Architect Rem Koolhaas had suggested this "thought experiment" as a way to unify the Cambridge and Allston campuses. Horrified Harvard administrators suppressed his report.) Cooper observed that the Charles, because it is dammed, is already more a lake than a river. Many parts of Harvard's Allston property are very wet, but can't be drained to the river because they are too low. He went so far as to say that the form of the campus may be shaped by the water-management solution that planners devise. What that means, he said in response to a question, is not "Venice in Allston" -- but "water on the ground one can imagine." More specific he has declined to be until the firm reports to Harvard administrators.

Allston plans will likely include -- in addition to undergraduate housing and sites for the schools of public health and education -- a significant science component, because science is the most rapidly growing area of research at Harvard. And an excellent model for understanding how Harvard might expand is coming together right now a continent away, in what is the country's largest academic biomedical expansion. The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Mission Bay campus, which includes student housing and a large community center, is devoted to science, and has already addressed many of the same issues that now face Harvard in Allston and Cambridge. Physically, the sites are remarkably similar: railyards and warehouses; low wet ground that has to be squeezed dry or packed with fill before structures can be built; inadequate infrastructures; a location hard by a highway and bordering water; a place separated from what has traditionally been the main campus by both distance and heavily trafficked roadways.

Redevelopment of Mission Bay, originally owned by a railroad, was proposed as early as 1981, but the land lay fallow for years. Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, M.D. '62, S.D. '04, explained during an interview in January how "UCSF urgently needed to expand" from its cramped quarters at Parnassus Heights, a hospital district not unlike the Longwood medical area in Boston. UCSF considered several new sites, Mission Bay among them, but initially the land there was astronomically expensive. It was also across the city from the main campus, which overlooks Golden Gate Park.

Then an enlightened partnership was formed among the city, UCSF, local business leaders led by biochemist William J. Rutter '49, the former UCSF professor and Harvard Overseer who founded Chiron, and landowner Catellus Development Corporation. In 1997, Catellus agreed to donate 3o acres in the middle of its 303-acre industrial holdings to UCSF, and the city agreed to donate 13 more. Catellus was convinced that a new campus at Mission Bay would attract biotech investment.

The result was a "win-win-win," said Regis Kelly, UCSF's former executive vice chancellor. The city, which brokered the deal, stood to benefit from the increased tax revenues associated with eventual commercial development in the area. Catellus received a tax credit, staged to take advantage of increased land values attributable to USCF's presence. Catellus further agreed to provide infrastructure for the UCSF site: water, sewers, electricity, and fiber optics. These improvements, completed in advance of construction, were financed through a deal with the city that froze the tax base, explained Catellus senior vice president Andrea Jones.

Increased tax revenues from incremental increases in the underlying land value (due to the development) are being used to pay off low-interest bonds that financed the improvements. When the bonds are fully paid, the city will collect the full tax revenue on land that will be much more valuable than it is today. The overall site will eventually include 6,000 units of housing, 5 million square feet of office and biotechnology laboratory space, 50 acres of open space, and the 43-acre UCSF campus.

Whether Harvard and Boston could form such a creative partnership remains an open question. Harvard, moreover, is serving as its own developer in Allston. But Harvard has acted with enlightened self-interest before, from the donation of land along the Charles for a public park a hundred years ago to recent donations of property for a public library branch in Allston; it did so again when it granted the state's local transit authority access to its Allston rail holdings.


California dreaming. Above: The first phase of UCSF's Mission Bay campus takes shape around a quad; it includes a community center that sells memberships to the public. Below: The community center's roof will include an outdoor pool. At bottom: The 434,000-square-foot Genentech Hall, the site's first building, was completed in 2003. It features laboratory "neighborhoods" clustered off loop corridors.

MAJED / University of California at San Francisco

Even taking the fortuitous gifts of land and infrastructure to UCSF into account, the progress of the Mission Bay campus has been remarkable, in part because the university felt pressure to uphold its commitment to provide an economic stimulus to an underdeveloped area. Said Bishop, "That, along with the academic needs, is what propelled the vigor with which we developed the site. What we have achieved there in five years is just wildly beyond anyone's expectations. There were a lot of people who doubted that we could, first, get the academic community to decide what to do, and second, build half a dozen buildings in that time, finance it, pay for it -- but we have."

The original plan was to start with a modest 72,000-square-foot building (a bit smaller than the Inn at Harvard, in Harvard Square). But a 44-member faculty committee decided in the course of two years that the scheme with the least negative impact on the university overall was to move one of the two graduate programs and a major portion of its core faculty, essentially dividing the scientific community in half. The first phase of construction was scaled up dramatically to include half a dozen buildings, including four research facilities, a community center, and a housing complex. Forty-three percent of the nearly $1-billion price tag has been funded by philanthropy and the rest by equity (indirect cost recovery on research grants). At full buildout, in about 15 years, some 9,100 people are expected to work and study in 20 buildings at the site.

There were two poles of opinion among the committee members who came up with the plan for the initial move, said Keith Yamamoto, a faculty leader who is now executive vice dean of the UCSF medical school. "One group said, 'Pick up programs and move them intact and very carefully put them down. We have great programs; don't screw them up.' The other pole said, 'No other academic medical center has the opportunity to develop 2.5 million square feet from a blank slate. This is a chance to do something really bold and exciting,' symbolized, for example, by mixing clinical and basic scientists elbow to elbow in a whole new way in order to truly integrate these disciplines."

In the end, the initial moves approximated the conservative approach of moving programs nearly intact. "But in our report," said Yamamoto, "we noted that this was just the first step, and that the final product would look very different. We have already begun salting in physician-scientists among the basic researchers." These efforts will be greatly enhanced with the next phase of development, which will include the construction of several research buildings focused on specific health problems. There will also be a building for ambulatory outpatient care and "translational" research. "The practice of medicine," predicted Yamamoto, "will increasingly interface in a direct way with research," as it does now in certain elements of cancer care, so researchers will actually involve patients in their investigations.

For now, "it is too early to judge how well this division of graduate programs has worked" from a science perspective, said Bishop. "What has worked is that the people who moved to Mission Bay are very happy. And the secret to that was to move enough people in a short enough span of time that there would be a critical mass, an adequate intellectual community." Allston planners have reportedly raised this issue of "critical mass," implying that construction there will have to be fast-tracked and on a large scale. Achieving that at Mission Bay required an ambitious construction program, starting with Genentech Hall's 434,000 gross square feet. The building at capacity holds 1,100 researchers and support staff.

For all the similarities between Boston and San Francisco, Mission Bay is much farther from Parnassus Heights than Allston is from Harvard Square. A shuttle ride of 20 minutes divides the two California campuses, so Bishop adheres to a principle of autonomy: "People talk of sustaining the connections, but however laudable that is, the rock bottom for success is that both sites have to be self-sufficient in certain ways, and in large ways, intellectually even. They can enrich each other, but they should be good enough that if an earthquake removed one of them, the other would continue to thrive.

"The major negative impact," he adds, "and it wasn't a secret at all, is that if you move a lot of people from a site like Parnassus Heights, that site has been diminished until they are replaced. The main angst is among the people who remained. They wonder, 'When are we going to be reconstituted into the kind of community that we were before?'" President Lawrence H. Summers, who has visited UCSF, and the Allston planners have to contend not only with this issue, but with wider community concerns as well.

Harvard has never suggested that it might construct an academic health center in Allston -- after all, the Longwood medical area is not far away -- but Summers has expressed the hope that Boston could become a center for the biotechnology industry. Regis Kelly, who is now executive director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research, located at the Mission Bay campus, said the concept of an academic health center has gone from a two-tiered to a three-tiered structure, with basic science research, the biotech industry, and the clinical community working together to advance health science. In order to facilitate such interactions, Kelley regularly interviews every scientist in his institute. Then he talks to venture capitalists, "industry's equivalent to a knowledge broker,...to see whether they have got a company that might be interested in something we are doing. Then we can set up a confidentiality agreement." The result, he says, is good for UCSF, for patients, for industry, for venture capitalists, for the city, for developers like Catellus, and ultimately, "for the California economy."

Even the laboratories at Mission Bay are set up to facilitate this kind of technology transfer. "We group people according to scientific overlap," Kelly said, "so they can be from clinical departments, academic departments, even different schools. That, I have to say, is an administrative nightmare, but we had to make a decision: Are we here to make life simple for the administrators or for the scientists?"

Much as Allston is still in the future, UCSF Mission Bay is only a beginning, even with buildings up and running. In its next phase, UCSF aspires to integrate the research and clinical work even more closely together, and to establish additional links to adjacent commercial biomedical development. Likewise, what is being planned for Allston right now involves only the core of Harvard's extensive land holdings. Over time, it is possible to imagine closer collaborations between clinical and pure researchers there, and perhaps even spillovers into the private sector that might give life to Summers's aspirations for a major bioindustry center.

March-April 2005: Volume 107, Number 4, Page 54


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Awesome info, it's going to take me a while to absorb it all.

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Allston-Brighton TAB: Friday, March 4, 2005: Allston crimson over Harvard plan

By Erin Smith/ Staff Writer

As Harvard University prepares to develop a state-of-the-art campus on its newly acquired North Allston property, neighbors are calling on the Boston Redevelopment Authority to revise the neighborhood's development vision to make any new building keep the same scale as what's there now.

In December, the BRA released a draft copy of the North Allston Strategic Framework for Planning, a 50-year vision of the future of North Allston, designed by Harvard University, the city and community members.

The BRA expected to release the final document last month, but backtracked after neighbors called for revisions. The agency has now decided to extend the comment period to give planning group members, who helped draft the framework plan, a chance at revision.

"We're hoping that we can work with the community to address any concerns," said Rebecca Barnes, Chief Planner for the BRA.

The framework plan is rooted in a 1997 public outcry, when the city learned that Harvard secretly bought 52 acres of North Allston land over 10 years through a front real estate firm, the Beals Companies.

Harvard sought to build a partnership with the community to create a common development goals.

IMP coming soon

Harvard officials, who plan to file an Institutional Master Plan this coming fall, are careful to call the document "a guided planning exercise." Harvard maintains that community meetings will also guide their planning process. The next Harvard Allston Master Planning meeting will be held at the Honan-Allston Library on Thursday, March 10, at 6:30 p.m.

But some neighbors still feel the plan in its current draft agreement could use some work. The Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation sent the BRA a letter with suggestions from its board of directors last week.

"We are concerned that the overall scale and density that seem to be embedded in the NASFP are not reflective of what the community desires or what will preserve and enhance North Allston's neighborhood character," the letter reads.

The current framework plan suggests adding 2,800 units to North Allston. The CDC board said that could be too high and would represent nearly a doubling of the current 3,200 units in the neighborhood.

The CDC board also voted to reject framework-plan-proposed building heights of 55 to 95 feet high. Buildings taller than 35 feet would wall off the Charles River from the community and should only be built south of Western Avenue, the board said. The board agreed to endorse taller buildings at only a limited number of gateway locations.

Paul Berkeley, president of the Allston Civic Association, also told BRA that the community does not want 90-foot tall buildings along Western Avenue. Neighbors are more interested in smaller commercial businesses, such as dry cleaners and coffeeshops, Berkeley said. But Berkeley also hopes the current squabble over building heights won't scrap the entire four-years-in-the-making project, which calls for community benefits in exchange for development.

"I think the plan needs a bit of tweaking, but I'm happy where we are now," said Berkeley.

Needs additions

The CDC also requested that the framework plan reflect land Harvard has bought since the framework planning started.

But Berkeley said he isn't worried that the plan doesn't mention the South Beacon Rail Yard, which Harvard purchased in 2002.

Harvard officials have admitted it's unlikely any construction would take place in the next few decades at the rail yard, which includes 91 acres of land bordering Western Avenue, Cambridge Street and the Charles River. Harvard also owns the Genzyme Corp. plant along Soldiers Field Road, but the laboratory has a long lease and is unavailable for immediate development.

Berkeley also says the framework plan neither exempts Harvard from city zoning requirements nor guarantees community benefits. "It's going to be an ongoing negotiation for the length of time it takes Harvard to build on all the land," said Berkeley.

Current framework plan proposals span throughout the neighborhood.

Brighton Mills, the largely vacant strip mall on Western Avenue with a dominating 4-acre parking lot, would become a pedestrian-friendly shopping district with Harvard buildings and approximately 500 apartments and condos with parking and attractive public squares.

Barry's Corner, the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue now flanked by gas stations, would transform into a busy retail main street with improved pedestrian access to Harvard Square.

Potential plans also include an expanded civic center and community housing behind the Honan-Allston Library; graduate student housing on Western Avenue and near Smith Field; and added landscaping and parks. The plan also calls for selected redevelopment between Western Avenue and Soldiers Field Road from Smith Field to Market Street with improved pedestrian access to the Charles River from Smith Field, Telford Road, Leo M. Birmingham Parkway and near Richardson Street. The city is also studying the possibility of adding three new MBTA stops to the neighborhood.

Planning group members are working with the BRA to schedule another board meeting this month in hopes that the draft can be revised before Harvard releases its IMP.

(Allston-Brighton TAB: Friday, March 4, 2005)

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Harvard details Allston campus plan [Boston.com]

The Plan for Harvard in Allston, January 2007 Draft [pdf]

A building boom on campus. Major projects for area colleges expected to boost landscape, economy. [The Boston Globe]

Big Plan on Campus. A series of Globe Editorials on college expansion in city neighborhoods. [Boston.com]

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Looks good, but that part of the city is really underserved by transit....maybe by 2050, they will be considering an outer urban ring.....or redoing the 5th version of the current concepts.

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