Harvard University publicly launched a $6.5 billion fundraising campaign on Saturday that will help pay for the construction of new properties as it continues to expand into the Allston area.
Harvard is in the early stages of implementing its Institutional Master Plan, an outline of construction and renovation projects across Allston over the next 10 years. Harvard President Drew Faust said in a speech on Friday that parts of the funds gathered from the campaign would go towards the proposed construction and renovations that span from Western Avenue north to the Charles River.
“This campaign will provide the momentum as well for further developing our Allston property as an integral part of Harvard,” she said. “It will enhance collaborations across disciplines and schools and encourage connections among the University, the community and new partners in industry and research”
The IMP still has to be approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, but Harvard already has a presence in Allston, as its sports facilities and business school are there, and other plans to build in the area have been approved in the past, including an IMP in 1997.
Brent Whelan, a member of the Harvard-Allston Task Force, an advisory group made up of Allston residents that monitors Harvard’s construction proposals south of the Charles, said the community has had little say in the developments.
“What we in Allston are negotiating with Harvard for [is] a very modest program of community benefits that we would like to see Harvard bring to this community as it’s bringing its new campus here,” he said. “We feel that they should really invest in the community and the welfare of the community in Allston, and Harvard has so far made very modest investments.”
Whelan said Harvard denied the task force’s request for funding for a local middle school that would allow it to develop an effective science program.
Faust said the university always attempts to create benefits for both itself and for the communities it affects.
“Creating new knowledge, reimagining teaching and learning, engaging globally, reinventing the spaces where we learn and live, attracting and inspiring the best students and faculty — these are essential to our enduring strength,” she said.
Some residents of the Allston community demonstrated varied opinions on Harvard’s construction in Allston.
Darlene Harris, 48, said she saw the construction of new facilities in the area as much-needed renovations of old properties.
“It actually doesn’t bother me,” she said. “I think it’s making the area look a lot nicer. It doesn’t affect me [badly] at all. I think it’s nice, really nice.”
Damian Doyle, 41, said Harvard was only invading an area for its own benefit.
“It’s bad for the community,” he said. “They’re moving in on all the resident[s].”
Earl Williams, 24, said if Harvard follows through on its promises, Allston could greatly benefit from its construction.
“I really don’t mind it [the construction],” he said. “When they [Harvard] moved everyone out of this area and they relocated them, they’re living in a much better area [now]. I don’t know what they might do [in the future] here.”
Whelan said the promise of Harvard improving Allston is still a strong hope for the task force, but that possibility is still far in the future if it comes to fruition.
“From the beginning, a lot of us were very excited about the idea that Harvard was going to be our neighbor here, that Harvard would bring resources and alternative activity to our neighborhood,” he said. “We’re still trying to be excited about that. We still think that there’s a great opportunity involved in Harvard’s building out its whole campus. So far, though, it’s been very disappointing.”