What is modern and contemporary art?

Harvard's filing for the proposed art center at 224 Western Ave tell us it "will house galleries primarily for the exhibition of modern and contemporary art." But what is "modern and contemporary art"? It can be controversial and obscene photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe or paint drips by Jackson Pollack. As this imporant project moves forward it will be important to understand the type of art that Harvard plans to display in Allston and what art people in Allston would like to see here. I went to the Harvard "Collections Online" website but there is not a single piece of 20th century art listed!

These are some pieces of modern art I saw on a trip to the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Rugg Road fire displaces 20 people

Boston fire department officials say a 2:45 a-m fire at three-story residence on Rugg Road in Allston sent three people to the hospital and displaced 20 residents.
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

Reported rapes in Allston/Brighton doubled in '06

While the number of rapes reported to police citywide has dropped since 2003, sexual assaults reported in the Allston-Brighton area have more than doubled this year compared with 2005. Police attribute the spike primarily to an increase in the number of date rapes of female students. Through Dec. 22, there were 33 reported rapes in the community, police statistics show. The 33 reported rapes in Allston-Brighton is a four-year high. There were 20 reported in 2003, followed by 22 in 2004 and 13 in 2005, police statistics show.
Link to the Boston Globe story

Suffolk University responds to its neighbors

In sharp contrast to the Harvard Instiutional Master Plan Amendment, Suffolk University published a "Responses to Comments" that clearly addresses every single comment submitted regarding the dormitory Suffolk proposed for 20 Somerset Street.

Community activism can work!

Boston Globe: Suffolk University drops Beacon Hill dormitory plan, seeks new site

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."

Boston Globe: Harvard's plans are good for Harvard

Harvard: New museum site is a better location, costs less

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:

  1. The proposed building is 60 feet high. The neighborhood plan expects buildings in this area to be no more than 35 feet high.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

A/B - Allston/Brighton or Alcohol/Beer?

Get ready for more drinking in the neighborhood. In today's Globe, Daniel Pokaski , chairman of the Boston Licensing Board, says the North End and Back Bay are the only areas of the city off-limits for the 55 new liquor licenses granted to Boston by recent legislation passed at the State House.

University/Public School partnerships need a push

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.

Harvard family sketching sundays & MFA public programs

This program at Harvard's art museums in Cambridge is an example of what could come to Allston as Harvard begins creating art facilities here is Allston.

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.

Public classes at Harvard Ceramic Program in Allston

The Harvard Ceramics Program, located at 224 Western Ave, has a series of classes open to the public starting in Febrauary. Classes meet once a week for 14 weeks for beginners and experts. There are also mini-courses that meet for 4 or more sessions. The registration form is available here.

Demographics of an expanded Charlesview

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.

Harvard Art Building Filing is online

On December 15, 2006 Harvard filed a Project Notification Form (PNF) with the BRA for the Harvard University Art Museums (HUAM) Art Center in Allston. The BRA (Gerald.Autler.bra@cityofboston.gov) will accept comments on the PNF until February 16, 2007.

Harvard IMP Amendment Filing is online

On December 15, 2006 Harvard filed an Institutional Master Plan (IMP) Amendment with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) for its Allston Campus. The amendment includes two projects: Harvard’s Allston Science Complex and Harvard University Art Museums (HUAM) Art Center. The BRA (Gerald.Autler.bra@cityofboston.gov) will accept comments on the IMP Amendment until February 16, 2007.

Here is the PDF version of the filing. (82 Megabytes)

Globe Editorial - Master builder wanted

BOSTON Redevelopment Authority chief Mark Maloney is calling it quits just when the commercial real estate market is starting to percolate. Mayor Menino, a chronic procrastinator when it comes to Cabinet appointments, risks missing a long-awaited development cycle if he fails to move quickly in naming a replacement... It is also the right time for a BRA director with a stronger knowledge and commitment to city planning. Boston would benefit especially from a redevelopment chief who can match wits with land-hungry research universities.

The temperate Maloney was a good match for the times. The next director will need a tougher approach to the city -- and its mayor.

Prodded, city grabs Allston & Brighton's abandoned cars

When elephants are about to die, it's said, they find their way to a special graveyard. When cars give it up in Boston, they seem to find their way to side streets in Allston and Brighton. Andrew Locke says three abandoned cars had not been moved from Westford Street in Allston for at least two months. One car has been parked across from Locke's condo for more than seven months. Marcie Laden says a blue Chevrolet pickup truck had been parked outside her home on Tip Top Street in Brighton for two months.

Read the story here

Money in City Council politics

Each year, each person in Boston can donate $500 to candidates for City Council. There was no City Council election this year, but the entire Council (district and at-large) is up for re-election next year. So with January 1 approaching, I have been surprised to receive two emails this week asking for donations for a election season several months away. One was from Sam Yoon, who hopes to have $60,000 in the bank by December 30. Wow! In 2003, Michael Flaherty raised $387,652 in donations and spent $403,672. The 2005 campaign saw even more cash than 2003, and it looks like there will be, predictably, even more money raised and spent next year.

Man Pulled From SUV After Crashing Into Charles

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.

Full Story

Harvard's Art Building PNF & IMP Amendment

These documents have both been submitted to the BRA. The comment period for both documents ends on February 16 (this includes and extension due to the holidays and concurrent filing of both documents). The documents should be on the BRA website soon.

FOCUS: The Charlesview Apartments

The Crimson, Harvard's student daily newspaper, has several articles about Charlesview including the one mentioned below:
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

Harvard Students Speak Out To Support Allston

Click here to read the entire article

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.

A different kind of development pressure

A stark contrast to the hundreds of thousands of square feet of development coming soon to Allston and Brighton, here is a story about activists in Burbank, California trying to stop construction of a 60,000 sq ft Whole Foods supermarket.
“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.

176 Lincoln Street - No Longer the "Cabot, Cabot & Forbes" Building

Harvard has completed another purchase in the neighborhood! 176 Lincoln Street, the long empty "tech center" at the corner of Lincoln St and Everett St is now Harvard property. The property sold for $16 million and includes the building and the 5.2 acres of land on which it sits.

Allston Then and Now

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.

Mayor Menino's Remarks to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

"So, yes, Boston is growing in many good ways. But growth by itself is not the goal.
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

Harvard Allston Task Force meeting - December 11

It was another interesting meeting on Monday. It started with a presentation from Harvard about the new art building they want to build. For starters, I don't think it should be called a "museum". Harvard described the building as 1/3 public, 1/3 office, and 1/3 storage. But when they got to numbers, they said the 125,000 sq ft building would have ~9,000 sq ft of exhibition space. When I think of a musuem I think about art on display for the public to see in the galleries. If only 7% of this building is going to have art on display then it is really a storage and administrative building with some art on display in front.

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.
It would be great to have art and cultural institutions in Allston. But there is no accepted master plan for Barry's Corner and this art building will close at 5 p.m. and therefore not do anything in the evening to contribute to a vibrant Main Street. The small gift shop and cafe it will create could be fine, but let's look at what Barry's Corner might look like for the next 10 years:
  • 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

Seed money to grow scientists - Schools awarded grants to promote biotechnology

Seed money to grow scientists - The Boston Globe: "Boston Latin Academy and Brighton High School were among six schools in Massachusetts to get grants funding a pilot program to increase the number of students pursuing careers in science. Both schools received $7,000 from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation."

An Urban Parking Perk: The Automated Garage

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.

A commuter rail stop for Dorchester. When will the train stop in Allston?

Coming down the track, a Four Corners upgrade - The Boston Globe: "North Allston-Brighton, which once had three rail stations and the A Line trolley, also sees commuter trains fly by without stopping, and Harvard University and the city of Boston support a new commuter rail station in that neighborhood, although the city has not endorsed a site.
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

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.

Residents, St. E.'s duke it out at community meeting

TownOnline.com - Allston/Brighton TAB: "Residents of Allston-Brighton sparred with representatives of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and with each other Tuesday night over the hospital’s plans to build a new emergency department on the green space at the corner of Cambridge and Washington Streets.
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.” "

The Future of Charlesview and the Litchfield St Neighborhood

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.

Boston College Institutional Master Plan - An Opportunity for Blue Development

TownOnline.com - Arts & Lifestyle: Boston College Institutional Master Plan - An Opportunity for Blue Development: "There is a justifiable concern among the residents of Allston-Brighton about Boston College plans to develop a 43-acre parcel of land it purchased in 2004 from the Archdiocese of Boston, due to the potential loss of open space in the neighborhood. However, if designed right, the development could help restore the environment within the campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods. As a prerequisite to institutional expansion the Boston Redevelopment Authority requires BC to prepare an Institutional Master Plan for its new campus. This process will require neighborhood participation at various stages of the planning process..."

Speedway meeting notes

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.

The reality of Boston schools - a day at the Alexander Hamilton School

The reality of Boston schools - The Boston Globe

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.

College Expasion in Back Bay - BRA concerned about comunity support

Berklee seeks to build dorm tower and theater - The Boston Globe: "The proposed 25- to 30-story complex would replace two buildings, the Berklee Performance Center and a two-story academic building at the corner of Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue. At 300,000 square feet, the building would cost roughly $120 million and might include two or three towers.

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.

BU Athletes Allegedly Jumped, Injured In Allston

cbs4boston.com - BU Athletes Allegedly Jumped, Injured In Allston: "Boston Police are investigating a brutal attack on a group of Boston University student-athletes early Sunday morning at 9 Wadsworth Street in Allston over the weekend. "

Stopping Regis College Development

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

TAB story on Wednesday's Harvard Task Force meeting

TownOnline.com - Local News: Residents weigh in on how Harvard can give back: "More than 100 residents, community activists and elected representatives attended the Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting Wednesday night at the Honan Library to offer their suggestions about how the university can give back to the community as it slowly expands into Allston."

Harvard's Riverside Housing Project

Several years ago, Harvard had plans to build a musuem at the intersection of Western Ave and Memorial Drive. Neighborhood opposition stopped that project, and instead Harvard is building housing on that site. This website gives Harvard's overview of the project. In summary, Harvard is building a set of buildings containing 500 beds of rental housing for Harvard affiliates on 4.5 acres of land. The maximum building height is 55 feet.

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.

HARVARD INC. | Metropolis Magazine

HARVARD INC. | Metropolis Magazine | February 2001

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 - a Harvard/Mission Hill partnership

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.