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Harvard gets approval to expand campus further into Allston, commences Phase A

Construction in Boston. Harvard University, which owns one-third of Allston, is expanding their campus into the neighborhood. HAIYI BI/DFP STAFF

The Boston Planning and Development Agency approved Harvard University’s expansion into Allston-Brighton last July after years of planning. Now, Harvard is commencing Phase A of their task force.

Already owning one-third of the Allston neighborhood, Harvard will build their Enterprise Research Campus on 100-112 Western Avenue in Upper Allston according to their development plans. A focus of the project is that 25% of the 345 residential units will be income restricted, providing housing options for middle to low income residents.

The most notable pushback from the expansion plan is from the Coalition for a Just Allston + Brighton, which represents 33 groups and organizations. The coalition wrote a 19-page letter to Mayor Michelle Wu to call for Harvard to be flexible with their development plans and create a mutually beneficial relationship with the community.

“Residents, community and nonprofit leaders, and elected officials in Allston-Brighton say that Harvard University’s expansion plans will cause significant harm to their community,” CJAB wrote in a March press release. 

The press release noted possible issues with the expansion such as “unaffordable, exclusionary housing; inadequate public transportation; traffic congestion,” and more. 

Harvard will be using 14 of its 36 acres approved for Phase A of the plan, with the potential of utilizing 140 acres of land total in Allston. The development plans to utilize 900,000 square feet that contains affordable residences, offices, hotels, restaurants, and two acres of open space, according to a Letter of Intent sent by real estate firm Tishman Speyer. 

The Harvard Allston Task Force, consisting of advisory boards made up of representatives from each community, has led several meetings in the 18-month period leading up to the board’s approval. 

Anthony D’Isidoro, a member of the Harvard Allston Task Force and president of the Allston Civic Association, said that Harvard’s relationship with the neighborhood of Allston came off to “a rocky start,” but that the relationship is continually growing.

“[The plan development] was a long process,” he said. “It was really changing the culture of how Harvard worked with the community, and I think it bodes well for the future where there’s now Phase B coming and Phase C of the enterprise research.”

JoAnn Barbour, the executive director of affordable housing nonprofit Charlesview Inc. in Allston, said she joined CJAB because of growing concern around the changes being made in the neighborhood and the lack of community engagement.

“Development is necessary,” Barbour said. “There is an opportunity working with Harvard to ensure that this new neighborhood that is going to be built over the next 25 years is a neighborhood that is welcoming for everybody to live, work, play in.”

D’Isidoro noted members of the Allston Civic Association echoed similar concerns. 

“We all are kind of in agreement that we don’t want to see another Seaport [District] developed,” he said. “It can’t be a one-sided type of thing. The opportunity is there to build something very special.”

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