Harvard University has recently released details of a multibillion-dollar plan to expand from Cambridge across the Charles River to the Allston neighbourhood of Boston. The university wants to transform more than 200 acres into a second, more modern Harvard Square, with retail space, academic buildings, athletic and cultural facilities and student housing.
Harvard officials say that they expect it will take 50 years to complete the project. They hope to create 14,000 to 15,000 permanent jobs and to break ground for a science building and arts centre by the end of the year.
The proposal still has to go through a public review and requires city approval before it can be implemented.
“This plan is intended to give the city of Boston and the community a preliminary sense of the kind of development that will take place in Allston,” said Harvard’s interim president, Derek Bok.
The plan calls for placing Soldiers Field Road, a main artery that runs along the Charles River, underground, so that students living in new dormitories on its banks can have easier access to the Cambridge campus.
The Harvard Business School and the university’s football stadium are already in Allston. The plans would create 30 acres of open space on land now covered with asphalt and transform some streets into wide pedestrian boulevards where people could stroll under canopies of trees.
The Allston campus would also be the base for the university’s athletic and science research facilities.
Harvard is looking to anchor the Allston campus around Barry’s Corner, an intersection that now has a gas station and a Dunkin’ Donuts. The plan calls for the area to be home to numerous retail shops, a performance centre and a public plaza. Officials envision it as being the link between the residential neighbourhood, which lies on one side, and the campus on the other.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino praised the plan, saying, “The community will benefit with the job creation efforts and new amenities.”
Not everyone in the neighbourhood is so sure. Residents said many questions remained unanswered.
“Folks in the community are trying to figure out how Harvard’s growth can coexist with a vital urban neighbourhood, and I think there’s still a lot of unanswered questions on that,” said Bob Van Meter, president of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, which has been closely watching the developments. “This is one document today in a whole series that have been developed and filed over the last several years.”
A resident, Harry Mattison, said he feared the changes could cut Barry’s Corner off from the campus and the river, rather than unify it. “Is this something that’s good for everyone'” asked Mattison, who runs a community blog. “Will the Harvard money and expertise bring everyone up, or does it draw a line' Could it be that they’ll be divided by not that much distance, but in some ways be miles apart'”