These are some pieces of modern art I saw on a trip to the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Two residents of the building were hospitalized, one with smoke inhalation and one with minor burns. Department spokesman Steve MacDonald says one firefighter injured a knee battling the blaze that caused an estimated 200-thousand dollars in damage.
Link to story
Link to the Boston Globe story
Bowing to the city's opposition to its plans, Suffolk University is giving up on the idea of putting a new dormitory tower on a Beacon Hill site. BRA director Mark Maloney told Suffolk Tuesday that the city was reversing its position and would oppose Suffolk's plans to house students at the site of a former Metropolitan District Commission building on Somerset Street. Outcry from the Beacon Hill community influenced the city's decision.Maloney suggested that the city and the neighbors may not be in as much of a hurry as Suffolk. "Interactive dialogue can be hard, and it's time-consuming, but it pays off," Maloney said. "We have to make sure we do this with the community, and they need a breather."
According to Harvard University Art Museum director Thomas Lentz , "we have a plan that makes sense for us (the art museums), and makes sense for the university."
What we don't know how this plan makes sense for Allston. Here is some of what we do know:
- The proposed building is 60 feet high. The neighborhood plan expects buildings in this area to be no more than 35 feet high.
- To accommodate the 200 employees, students, and visitors, parking for 150 cars is needed. Only 10 parking spaces will be on site. Harvard doesn't have a permanent location for the other 140 spaces.
- The building is more of an office and storage building than an art museum. The 130,000 sq ft building has 20,000 sq ft of storage space and 20,000 sq ft of office and conservation space. Less than 10% of the building will be gallery space, where probably fewer than 100 pieces of art will be on display. It is not clear that this will be the "significant new cultural facility" and "neighborhood and regional attraction" envisioned in the North Allston Strategic Framework.
- The Allston community and Task Force have been excluded from the planning of this project. Harvard and their architect attended the August 14 Task Force meeting to talk about the plans for the museum at the Citizen's Bank building (meeting minutes are posted here). Three months later we learned from this Boston Globe story that Harvard changed their mind and the museum would be next to the Dunkin Donuts. At the December 11 Task Force meeting, Harvard and their architect were back, to show us their "preferred option" for the building's design and tell us that this is what is best for Harvard.
The Globe coverage of this issue make it a great opportunity to write a letter to the editor to tell the Allston side of the story.
In September, the Harvard Gazette wrote this article celebrating the announcement of this partnership. Last week, Acting School Superintendent Michael Contompasis complained that the campuses were moving too slowly to suit the school system.
Editorial in Today's Globe - School partnerships need a push
A PLAN BY five major research universities (Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, and Northeastern) to adopt 10 public schools in Boston is creaking along, despite school department hopes that the partnerships would be underway in the new year. If college officials are going to make a significant contribution to the city's schools, they must first adopt an urban sense of urgency.On Jan. 4, the leaders of 10 struggling schools are scheduled to meet with university experts in the areas of public health, after-school programming, curriculum support, family engagement, and pedagogy. The plan, according to Deputy Superintendent Chris Coxson, is for the universities to step up in their individual fields of expertise and provide help across the board to the following schools: English High School; the Lewenberg and Curley middle schools; and the Agassiz, Winthrop, Chittick, Marshall, Russell, Elihu Greenwood, and Trotter elementary schools.
Family Sketching Sundays
Series 1: January 21 (Sackler Museum) and 28 (Semitic Museum)
Series 2: February 4 (Sackler Museum) and 11 (Peabody Museum)
The Museum of Fine Arts offers an array of art classes and workshops for children, teens, and adults and runs a Family Place drop-in program that runs 5 days a week. Ideas for programs like these could create a valuable cultural resource for Allston residents and help Harvard make the resources of its museum more accessible to the public.
US Census data for Block 1002, Block Group 1, Census Tract 8.01, Suffolk County has information about who lived at Charlesview in 2000 and what a relocated and expanded Charlesview at the KMart site could be like.
Household size: 63 units with 1 person, 53 with 2 people, 36 with 3, 33 with 4, 17 with 5, 9 with 6 people, and one with 7 or more people. The total is 557 people in 212 units (average of 2.6 people per unit). If the new development has 400 units with a similar density would have 1050 residents, almost 500 more than currently live at Charlesview.
Age: Of the 557 people, 413 (74%) are 18 years or older, 144 (26%) are younger than 18. Using the same ratio for 1050 residents, 779 would be 18 or older, 271 would be younger than 18.
Here is the PDF version of the filing (72 Megabytes)
Here is the PDF version of the filing. (82 Megabytes)
The temperate Maloney was a good match for the times. The next director will need a tougher approach to the city -- and its mayor.
Read the story here
ALLSTON An SUV crashed into the Charles River off of Soldiers Field Road in Allston Thursday afternoon after rear ending a car. The SUV ended up in the water and the driver was pulled from the sinking car by two Good Samaritans, according to police.
Myths About Charlesview By ABRAHAM HALBFINGER
Has This Land Already Been ‘Promised?’ By RICARDO SANCHEZ
Charlesview and the Future By KEVIN A. MCCLUSKEY
About the Charlesview Apartments - a summary of the situation
While Harvard touts its expansion into the nether regions of Allston as a veritable triumph for modern education, many residents, students, and community members see the University’s trek as something more sinister: a Harvardian version of manifest destiny. To them, Harvard’s expansion asserts that if the price is right and the buyer well-endowed, then the homes, histories, and communities of poor people can be bought up, bulldozed, and replaced with shiny new classrooms, biotech labs, and commercial start-ups.
As students, we are in a unique position. We have a certain power within the University. We can either use it to our advantage, at the expense of the poor people around us, or we can use it to challenge the injustices carried out in our name and with our money. The forced relocation of hundreds of poor families is one of the most egregious of these injustices.
And this is a student issue, not just a community issue. We will not see the end of these problems if the Charlesview families are relocated out of sight of the new campus. Such treatment of the tenants is sure to generate more anger and resentment, and that will last for years to come. Is this the kind of relationship we want to establish with our neighbors in Allston?
They will see Harvard’s expansion into their neighborhood as an invasion. And if we continue to act this way, they may have a point. If Harvard does not respect the surrounding community, we cannot expect them to respect us. If Harvard creates insecurity for our neighbors, we should not expect security for our own community.
In the past, Harvard students have stepped up to the plate where Harvard’s “leaders” would not. They have stood up for the rights of the least privileged, the ones excluded from the benefits of Harvard. They have stood up with workers. They have stood up with victims of discrimination. They have stood up for oppressed people in foreign lands. It’s about time we stand up for the people in our own backyard. Because, really, it’s their backyard, not ours.
“We’re finding they’re saying, ‘This is our development, take it or leave it,’” he says. “But we want to say, ‘This is our community, take it or leave it.’”
As Los Angeles well knows, in the world of urban planning, missteps can linger for decades, permanently altering the character of a place.
|With all the talk about the future of Allston, it is interesting to take a look back at the neighborhood in 1954. Here is a map showing "Barry's Corner" heading west to where Harvard wants to build its Science Complex. Back then there were more small residential blocks, both where Charlesview is now and also to the south, where Rena, Kingsley, and Bertram extended a block past Travis and where Oxford and Eatonia connected to Sorrento.|
Not for a city as great as Boston. Our goal must be growth that continues, that is
sustainable, that benefits everyone."
Read the whole speech here
Several months ago Harvard announced that this project would be at the Citizen's Bank building on Western Ave down near Toureen Kennels and Mahoney's Garden Center. Since then they have decided that building won't work and they want to do the project at the "Verizon building" next to Dunkin Donuts and across from Smith Field.
As it always seems to be with any developement around here, the first and most obvious problem is a parking problem. Harvard said this building will have 200 employees. Currently in Allston, 60% of Harvard employees drive to work. In the Science Complex proposal Harvard stated a goal of reducing that to 50%. So that is 100-120 cars that need to be parked somewhere. Plus there will be visitors, students, etc. so probably this facility needs to have parking for 150 cars. I don't remember how many parking spaces they said they planned, but it was a lot less than 150. Part of their explination was that they could use parking spaces in the Western Ave Business School lot or maybe the Science Complex garage. But the Science Complex construction won't be finished until a year after the art building opens, and why would anyone drive 1/2 mile when they could park much closer on a neighborhood side street?
Harvard Business School has a building called Teele Hall next door to this site. It has a surface parking lot for approximately 80 cars behind the building. So imagine needed almost twice that much space for the art building's parking. I asked Harvard's planners and architects if they had thought of building a parking garage for 200-250 cars using the space currently occupied by the Teele Hall lot and/or space below the art building. These spaces could be shared by Teele Hall and the art building. They said they hadn't thought at all about the space behind Teele.
Not surprisingly, another issue is building height. The North Allston Strategic Framework for Planning says:
"The Framework addresses height and massing of new buildings to ensure in general the preservation of the traditional character of residential neighborhoods while allowing the kind of significant new development that will bring substantial benefits to North Allston. Thus, west of North Harvard Street the Framework envisions heights of up to 35' on the southern side of Western Avenue"
But Harvard's design for this building has it being 60 feet high. When asked why the building should be so much taller than the NASPF's limit, Harvard's response was something like "We need the space." That's fine, but Harvard also has plenty of other property in North Allston, and maybe some of those sites would be a more appropriate place for a 125,000 sq ft, 60 foot high building that needs parking for 150 cars. I asked if Harvard could do this in two buildings - one for the storage and one for the museum. No, they said, that would be much too complicated. But they do operate out of multiple sites in Cambridge. I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of pieces of art Harvard has in their complete collection, but I don't understand the practicality of having to have them all under a single roof, especially considering that most of them are very rarely seen or accessed.
This leads into another question - is this the most appropriate type of building to put in the middle of Barry's Corner (the intersection of N. Harvard and Western Ave)? Here are some thoughts on Barry's Corner from the North Allston Strategic Plan:
- Development of Barry’s Corner as a central core, with neighborhood-focused retail as well as some community housing;
- The four-block stretch of Western Avenue linking Brighton Mills and Barry’s Corner will become North Allston’s retail Main Street, creating a new focal point for the neighborhood
- Create a main street-like environment with approximately 200,000 square feet of community serving retail and services, with housing, academic, and other uses located on upper floors.
- Teele Hall - a private Harvard building
- This art building - a lot of storage and administrative space with a small gallery
- Two gas stations
- 7-11 convenience store
- Dunkin Donuts
- Charlesview (for at least the next few years)
- The site of the Harvard Mail Facility and the other ancillary uses next to Smith Field
Doesn't seem like much of a thriving retail space to me.
There was also discussion about the roof garden that Harvard proposed for above the second floor of the museum. This would be back off the street and could create a privacy problem for the neighbors who live next to this site. The building will close at 5, but if Harvard wants to rent the building for parties and other functions like they do in Cambridge it could be a lot of unwanted noise and light spilling over into the backyards and homes on Franklin, Holmes, and Mead Streets.
Another possible conflict with the NASPF is that the Framework suggests removing Spurr St (the tiny street that cuts behind the gas station from the Dunkin Donuts to in front of Smith Field) and replacing it with a pedestrian walkway. For this to happen, the vehicular access to this site would have to be done through the Teele Hall building.
Harvard estimated that construction on this project would take 1 1/2 years and they hope to start in the Fall of 2007.
The other main topic of the meeting was interim property improvements and uses for Harvard's vacant buildings along Western Ave and elsewhere in the neighborhood. This was an update since the presentation they gave in September. Summary - no new leases have been signed and property improvements have been things like painting and fixing gutters. The plan in September was to have fence removal completed by the end of the Fall, but that has not happened and is waiting for legal approval. They told us that there will be some landscaping done in the Spring, but we shouldn't expect too much because it will only be interim landscaping. Harard couldn't estimate how much money they spent on property improvements in 2006 so hopefully there will be more information on this at the next meeting.I think the quote of the night was Harvard's comment that they started purchasing land in Allston because they looked at Allston and saw "land not being put to the best use." Wow. I have exactly the same thought when I look at the Harvard-owned land on Western Ave, Holton St, Everett St, etc.
Next meeting of the Harvard Task Force is January 8, 6:30 @ the Honan Library
An Urban Parking Perk: The Automated Garage - New York Times
We've heard some developers promote car stacking as a way to put more cars in the same amount of space. This story tells how Automotion Parking Systems, Park Plus, and others are putting more cars in smaller garages.
Vineet Gupta , Boston's transportation planning director, said stopping the commuter rail in Allston-Brighton would be cost-effective.
'Everybody is interested in seeing something happen there, and while it's in its infancy we're confident a design will emerge,' Gupta said.
Harvard has proposed a West Station on its Allston Landing South rail yard, near its Allston campus (where Harvard plans a massive expansion). The university has no 'hard plans' and is awaiting a state Executive Office of Transportation analysis, said Kevin Casey , director of government relations. The station could be tied to the proposed Urban Ring, a circumferential transit route that would link seven communities with the T's rapid transit lines and the booming Longwood medical area.
But mass transit advocate Charlie Vasiliades, a lifelong Brighton resident, said residents prefer a more central Brighton station, located where the old Brighton station stood near Market Street, near the current New Balance headquarters. That site offers better bus connections and room for parking, he said.
'Allston Landing would be convenient for Harvard, not for residents,' he said.
State Senator Steven A. Tolman , a Brighton resident and former railroad worker, said an Allston-Brighton station 'makes all the economic sense in the world.' Tolman bristled at the notion that commuters from Worcester or Framingham would complain about a longer"
|A building boom on campus - The Boston Globe: "A new residential tower could rise 30 stories over the Back Bay. A sprawling complex would buzz with hundreds of scientists in Allston, and a sleek glass-and-limestone business school would fill out the banks of the Charles.|
These projects -- at Berklee College of Music, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- are among about two dozen new buildings on the drawing board at universities and colleges in the Boston area."
|Nothing in the Boston area compares with Harvard's Allston Science Complex. Click here for the full graphic.|
The Allston-Brighton Community Planning Initiative played host to several representatives from St. Elizabeth’s, who gave a 20-minute presentation about the new ED to an audience largely opposed to its proposed location.
“Everyone in the community is in support of the new ED,” said Teresa Hynes, a member of the Brighton-Allston Improvement Association. “The problem is where it is going to be located.” "
Last night, staff from The Community Builders ran a meeting about the future of the Charlesview housing project. For brief background, Charlesview is 213 units of affordable housing on approximately 5 acres of land at the intersection of North Harvard St and Western Ave in Allston. The meeting was well attended, with more than 100 people in the audience.
Harvard University very much wants the land where Charlesview is currently located, and Harvard has offered 6.5 acres to build a new housing development in two parts - a large set of buildings where the KMart and OfficeMax used to be in the Brighton Mills shopping center and other buildings on land north of Western Ave next to the Skating Club of Boston.
The new design increases the number of housing units at Charlesview from 213 to 400. There was no information provided about how many people would occupy these new units, but it would probably be 300-500 new people living in the neighborhood. Many people at the meeting voiced concern that this many additional people would further overcrowd our already tightly-packed neighborhood. The woman from The Community Builders said that the reason for the additional units is that the neighborhood has a need for more affordable housing, but someone in the audience suggested that, because this is federally subsidized housing, there would be no preference given to Allston or Brighton residents so this benefit is not something that would be helping people currently living here.
The development would be divided between the two sites, with 284 units at the KMart site and 116 on the northern site between the Skating Club and the car wash. Doing some quick math on this northern portion of the project, 100 units of housing probably requires a 150,000 square foot building. The three building lots that Harvard would combine for this building total 31,500 square feet. This means to put 100 units on the site would require at least a 5 story building.
The architect, from CBT Architects, seemed to say several times that the below-ground garage would have one parking space per resident. After direct questioning from someone in the audience he said it would be one parking space per residence. The zoning requirements are 1.75 spaces per residence, which would mean 700 spaces for 400 units. So their current plans have them at least a couple hundred parking spaces short. I don't really understand why they would come to the community with a plan so obviously lacking in this key area.
There was a fair amount of dispute between residents of Charlesview, some who want to move and others who don't. Some say the building is sinking and falling apart and others say it is fine. A member of the audience asked if there was a publicly available structural assessment of the current building and he was told that this exists but it is not public.
Whatever happens with this project it will be a clear precedent for future construction in the neighborhood. The design for the buildings on the KMart site includes several 4 story buildings. These would be much taller and denser than the existing neighborhood. Maybe this should be the future. Maybe not. I think Tim McHale had the right idea when he said that we can do better - Charlesview can do better, the award-winning developer can do better, the famous architects can do better, and the residents of Allston and Brighton can do better.
A second meeting is being held on Thursday at 6 at St. Anthony's school.
Last night (Dec 4) the State's Dept of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) held a meeting at the Honan Library about their plans to sell the Speedway site and maintenance yards on Western Ave. These are the properties on either side of the Toureen Kennel building at the west end of Western Ave near Watertown. You probably know the rotting brown barn.
Approximately 40 people were at the meeting. The site is 3.5 acres. DCAM mentioned the goals from the North Allston Strategic Framework for Planning - create a gateway int the neighborhood, support mixed uses (housing, retail, commercial), enhance the streetscape, and create access to river (both visually and for pedestrians).
Current uses of the site include ~10,000 sq ft of space used by the State Police, the maintenance yard, storage for Hatch Shell equipment, and Publick Theater rehearsal space
History - The Speedway was the first project by the new Metropolitan Park Commission in 1899. It had a 1 mile race track for horses and was the first step in changing river from industrial tidal estuary into a recreational resource. The building complex dates from 1899 to 1924 and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The development opportunity is east of Toureen where the State Police building is. That building will probably be demolished. Preservation will be required to the west of Toureen where the barns and home are located.
DCAM suggested moving the DCR maintenance yard to Birmingham Pkwy next to the bocce courts. Representative Moran spoke strongly against that and I agree with him - that land should be parkland, not a maintenance yard.
The State Police may stay on the site if the new building has office space that would suite them. If not, it might be good for the community to have them stay in the area with an increased community presence.
State criteria is not just financial. The entire site will be sold to a single developer who will be required to rehabilitate the historic buildings and they will be free to develop the rest of the site as they (and the BRA) see fit. Possibilities mentioned were housing and retail/commercial.
DCAM plans to stabilize the buildings starting this winter (to prevent water leakage, make sure the buildings won't fall down...)
The State Legislature needs to pass legislation allowing this to move forward. That will be filed in January. If it passes by fall, DCAM would issue a Request for Proposals by the end of 2007. A developer could be chosen in 2008.
Given that Harvard owns the Toureen building right in the middle of the site and the Citizen's Bank building that abuts the site to the east, it is very strange that Harvard didn't have someone attend the meeting last night and DCAM said there have been no discussions with Harvard.
A comparable project that they mentioned is the Chestnut Hill Waterworks development. Apparently many people thought Boston College would buy that site from the State but it ended up going to a private developer for a residential project.
50+ years ago the author was a student at the Alexander Hamilton School in Brighton. Recently she returned to the school as part of a "Principal for a Day" program and in today's Globe she writes about her experiences then and now.
BRA director Mark Maloney said it is too early to say how the city agency would react to Berklee's proposals.
"We think their plans are bold, and we encourage bold plans, but we are not sure the community will support such bold plans," Maloney said.
While biking through Weston today I was surprised to see red lawn signs at many houses that said "Stop Regis Overdevelopment". Let's hope it never gets to the point where we are planting crimson red stop signs in the lawns of Allston
Here are a couple stories from the Globe about the controversy:
Regis complex drawing more fire - Neighbors unite vs. housing plan
Regis to sue over denial - Says it must build senior housing
And here is the Regis website about the project
As part of this project, Harvard is giving to the community 34,000 sq ft of land for a public park, $780,000 for park construction, 33 low and moderate-income home ownership units, and $50,000 to Riverside community organizations.
This story is 5 years old (before One Western Ave was built and when Harvard was trying to build a museum on Western Ave in Cambridge where Mahoney's used to be) but 5 years later this is still a very true and relevant story about Harvard's continual expansion. Here's the final paragraph:
"The thing that really troubles me is if you look at what Cambridge once was, as recently as the 1950s, there was a balance between the residential and the academic," says Defense Fund vice president Forbes, who obtained his doctorate in history from the university, studying seventeenth-century religious dissent. "But since the 1960s the balance has shifted. The big sword of Damocles hanging over the future is: Where is it going to stop? What further imbalance is going to be created because of Harvard's future needs?"
One Brigham Circle is a 200,000 sq ft mixed-use development at the intersection of Huntington Ave and Tremont St (click for map). It has office space and community retail. It also includes a 5.5 acre park, Puddingstone Park, which provides substantial open space to the neighboring community, as well as a Village Square public plaza that offers community gathering space for festivals, events, and civic functions. The project was constructed based upon a vision developed through a unique community planning process and has become the commercial heart of the neighborhood.
This is an interesting article about the process through which residents of Mission Hill worked with Harvard and the nearby hospitals to create this project. It doesn't sound like it was easy, but in the end it seems to have resulted in a better relationship between Harvard and the neighborhood and created something great for the area.
As we think about wanting to create jobs and good retail in Allston, and as we wonder about the future of Brighton Mills, this could be a good project to keep in mind.