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Harvard to expand science and engineering to Allston

Harvard University President Drew Faust announced Tuesday that the college is planning to move its School of Engineering and Applied Science presence from the main campus in Cambridge to property in Allston, amid mixed reactions by students.

Faust unveiled plans to relocate the majority of SEAS to the planned science facility in Allston, which is expected to be completed by 2017, according to Harvard officials.

“We regard this [plan] as an extraordinary opportunity for SEAS,” Faust said in a community meeting Tuesday. “The school must grow.”

Faust said she wants to establish SEAS as “a hub in the wheel of connectivity” that is meant to shape Allston.

Work on the building was suspended in 2009 due to drops in Harvard’s endowment as a result of the recession. Construction should continue in 2014.

Harvard owns about 350 acres in Allston, and the sciences building is planned to take up between 500,000 and 600,000 square feet. It will include laboratories, research facilities and classrooms.

SEAS includes about 575 undergraduate and 375 graduate students, 400 researchers and 70 full-time faculty member who use the space on Harvard’s main campus. SEAS became its own school in 2007 after being a division of the university since 1847, according to the SEAS website.

Melina Schuler, spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said the BRA approved the new building’s design in 2007 after a two-and-a-half-year public review process.

“Harvard’s announcement last week is a positive step towards resuming construction at the stalled Allston science complex, which is important to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and the neighborhood,” she said. “If there are changes to the approved science complex plans they could trigger a new community process and require new BRA approval.”

Some students said they do not mind the proposal to move some of SEAS to the Allston campus.

“It seems mildly annoying but not a big deal,” said Xiaoyu He, an undecided freshman at Harvard. “I like Harvard’s current compactness, but continued expansions are fine as long as I don’t have classes there.”

Manik Kuchroo, a freshman studying biology at Harvard, said the expansion to Allston is already prevalent, and moving more buildings to that location is not an issue.

“We already have the Quad and the River houses over there, and it doesn’t create that much of a difference between the two campuses,” he said.

A Harvard senior studying applied mathematics in SEAS, who wished to remain anonymous, said he could see many benefits to the move.

“These new facilities would be better suited at meeting the demand for classroom space due to the increasing enrollments in SEAS areas,” he said. “I’m sure that engineers and computer science students would benefit from new facilities that could provide a greater amount of resources to design and develop amazing things.”

However, he said he was worried about how students would deal with the distance and getting to class on time.

“The distance is always something I take into account and I have a difficult time imagining how this would affect the way I scheduled my days if I would have to travel much further distances to get to class,” he said. “I think this same concern would apply across all undergraduates enrolled in SEAS courses.”

Kuchroo said Harvard could provide services to assist with the travel to Allston.

“All I hope is that they have a great bus system that will let us get back and forth easily,” he said.

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