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Allstonians align against Harvard delay

Harvard University’s decision to slow construction on the Allston Science Complex was a necessary action, Allston Development Group Chief Operating Officer Chris Gordon told about 65 people at the Honan-Allston Branch Library on Monday night.

Harvard President Drew Faust announced in a letter last week Harvard would finish the foundation for its Allston Science Complex, but plans for the completion of the intended first phase of the 50-year project would be shelved indefinitely.

Gordon told the audience, primarily Allston-Brighton residents, that the 30 percent decline in Harvard’s endowment affected the university’s ability to complete the project. The Harvard Allston Task Force, a group of Allston residents and business leaders charged with submitting their recommendations to Harvard, questioned Gordon.

‘There are impacts from expansion, and there are impacts when you don’t expand,’ Gordon said. ‘Our plan at the end of the year is to make a good decision.’

Gordon said that Harvard had little choice in slowing construction because the shrinking endowment was pulling money from all areas of Harvard’s budget. Despite Harvard’s inability to finish its current project, Gordon said other improvements to the community could still be made.

Residents said they were outraged that Harvard was leaving the project incomplete, but would likely move on to finish other plans for development.

Allston resident Harry Nesdekidis said that Harvard’s monopolization of businesses ‘turned [Allston] into a ghost town.’

He said a veterinary clinic and gas station were left empty after Harvard bought the property and failed to develop it, and that as a result Allston-Brighton residents lost jobs and the community was left with unsightly empty lots.

Gordon said the Allston Development Group, the Harvard group in charge of drafting the Allston plans, had a 50-year plan, which was key for residents to understand. Because of the economic crisis, Gordon said immediate construction could not be guaranteed, however, long term plans would allow for gradual redevelopment.

‘I gag every time I hear 50 years. How about five years?’ Allston resident Leonard Kelliher said.

Kelliher, 75, said even if Harvard did fulfill Gordon’s promises of the 50-year plan, he would not live to see the results.

‘We would love to be here saying full speed ahead . . . we hope to keep going,’ Gordon said. ‘But if the world doesn’t get better, it’s hard to commit.’

Task force member Tim Norton said Gordon ‘now has an opportunity to change the tone of this . . . to go through your institution and say as a good neighbor, ”What are all the things we could implement . . . to make your community better?”

‘ ‘I’ve got to say, I don’t disagree,’ Gordon said, and repeated it several times after residents voiced concerns.

Residents said Gordon could not connect to the community on a personal level because he didn’t see the construction halt’s negative impacts on the neighborhood every day.

‘I believe you have to deliver,’ Nesdekidis said. ‘Enough talk. Do something.’

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One Comment

  1. Allign? You guy can’t s-p-e-l worth a d-a-m.