Harvard unveils plans for new Allston neighborhood

Harvard unveils plans for new Allston neighborhood

University starts small, with focus on 14 acres along Western Avenue

HARVARD UNIVERSITY unveiled some broad brush strokes of its plan to build a new neighborhood along Western Avenue on the edge of its campus in Allston.

The project, dubbed variously as Allston North or the Enterprise Research Campus, is an attempt by the university to build a neighborhood that feeds off and reinforces the research and innovation taking place at Harvard and other nearby institutions, including the Longwood Medical Area, Boston University, and MIT.

At a meeting Wednesday night with Allston residents, Harvard officials laid out some broad themes for the entire 36-acre area while offering a bit more specificity on 14 acres adjacent to Western Avenue. The working concept for the 14 acres called for two office/lab buildings, each about 200,000 gross square feet and 140 feet high, along with a hotel and conference center and a residential apartment building, each about 250,000 gross square feet and 190 feet high. Retail and commercial space would be located on the ground floors of some of the buildings.

Harvard’s vision for the remaining 22 acres included streets, development sites, residential projects, and lots of open space, including a 50-foot wide promenade running down the length of the area’s main street, named Cattle Drive after the livestock that used to come into the area by train. The other main streets running between Western Avenue and Cambridge Street are called Stadium Drive and East Drive.

Harris Band, Harvard’s planner, said several times that the university is not extending its campus but building a new neighborhood. “We’re not talking about creating an office park,” he said. “We’re talking about an urban living space.”

The area right now is one vast open space that people drive through on the Massachusetts Turnpike, but after years of planning and discussion things are finally starting to happen. Harvard is already building a new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences along Western Avenue adjacent to the proposed Enterprise Research Campus. State transportation officials are moving ahead with plans to rebuild a deteriorating elevated section of the Turnpike adjacent to Boston University, straighten the Turnpike, build a new bus and commuter rail station called West Station, eliminate the crazy-quilt roadways in the area, and connect the new neighborhoods (Allston South is on the drawing boards) to the Charles River.

It’s incredibly complicated, with lots of moving parts and competing interests. But Harvard officials say  there is an opportunity to knit Boston together, improve traffic flows in the area, and spin off businesses with the potential to make breakthroughs in  bioengineering, computer data science, robotics, and materials science.

Kevin Casey, associate vice president for public affairs and communications at Harvard, said the companies will all be driven by research. “There’s going to be startups. There’s going to be large companies. There’s going to be small companies,” he said.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Casey said Harvard was starting small, with preliminary plans for just 14 acres, because many of the issues related to the larger neighborhood development will have to be addressed in collaboration with the state Department of Transportation.

Many of the 50 to 60 Allston residents who attended the meeting at Harvard were worried about what impact all this development would have on their neighborhood. Officials from the Boston Planning and Development said an Impact Advisory Group with representatives from the neighborhood would have plenty of opportunity to weigh in on Harvard’s preliminary plans and later  when the university begins to submit formal plans in conjunction with developers.

  • QuincyQuarry.com

    Whatever Harvard wants, Harvard gets.

  • Harry Mattison

    “lots of open space”? Not compared to what Harvard proposed in 2013
    https://twitter.com/harrymattison/status/936962167131267072

  • Harry Mattison

    If “moving ahead” means “delaying until 2040”, then it is fine to write “State transportation officials are moving ahead with plans to build a new bus and commuter rail station called West Station”

  • Jonathan Abbett

    Can you provide a link to any materials/maps they provided?