Harvard picks Tishman Speyer for Allston phase 1

Jeanne Gang will be the lead architect

HARVARD UNIVERSITY selected Tishman Speyer and celebrated architect Jeanne Gang to develop and design the initial 14 acres of an enterprise research campus along Western Avenue across from the business school.

The highly anticipated selection means Harvard’s plan to build a brand new neighborhood in Allston will take a major step forward. Still, between negotiating a lease and obtaining the necessary permitting, it will still be another two years before there’s a groundbreaking on the project, which features 900,000 square feet of lab and office space, apartments, and a hotel and conference center.

A 22-acre second phase is in the works, but it won’t really start to take off until the state reorients the Massachusetts Turnpike to the south end of the sprawling open space and builds new off-ramps into the area. That entire project is expected to take at least a decade.

Harvard issued a warm and fuzzy press release about the deal with Tishman Speyer that was long on superlatives but fairly short on specifics. “There is no formal proposed project at the present time, nor any identified tenants,” the press release said. Terms of the deal with Tishman Speyer were not disclosed.

Proposed Studio Gang design of Misson Rock Building F in San Francisco.

The project provides an attractive blank canvas for a developer as well as a lot of challenges. Many at Harvard would like to create a center of innovation that would rival Kendall Square and MIT. But they’d also like to create a true neighborhood, one where people work and live and meshes with the surrounding area. It will be a delicate balancing act.

Proposed Studio Gang design of global terminal at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

Tishman Speyer is a big-time, global developer that currently owns and operates 3 million square feet of space in Boston, including the mixed-use Pier 4 and the life science lab building at 105 West First Street. Both buildings are in the Seaport District. The developer plans to use Gang as the architect. She is the founding principal of Studio Gang, a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a MacArthur Fellow. A sampling of her designs can be found here.

Tishman said it intends to partner with LabCentral, a nonprofit that provides 70,000 square feet of shared laboratory space for startups in Kendall Square in Cambridge. LabCentral got its start with the help of two $5 million grants from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and support from its real estate partner MIT.

The project will include a significant amount of affordable housing – more than the 13 percent that is required – but Harvard officials indicated the exact amount is still being determined. All of the buildings will be LEED Gold rated.

Tishman beat out two other finalists – HYM Investment Group, headed by Tom O’Brien, and Alexandria Real Estate Equities and National Development.

The selection was made by the Harvard Allston Land Co., a subsidiary of Harvard run by Tom Glynn, who previously headed the Massachusetts Port Authority and served as chief operating officer of Partners HealthCare and general manager of the MBTA.

Glynn will continue to run the land company, but he is also taking on additional duties next month when he starts teaching a course on implementation in conjunction with the Kennedy School and the Graduate School of Design.