Will there be public access to the Harvard Science Complex?

Harvard claims that "43,950 square feet of the building programming will be accessible to the general public." According to Harvard, the components of the 43,950 are:
Daycare 11,250
Auditorium 10,100
Cafeteria 9,400
Atrium 6,800
Retail 6,400
Each one of these needs to be analyzed to consider how public it really might be.

Harvard proposes 11,250 sq ft of space for daycare with "10-15% of the spaces will be available for the community." Therefore, at most 1,688 sq ft (15%) is "public" space. The other 9,563 sq ft are private.

"Harvard will consider allowing the community to utilize the auditorium for special events."
This is far from a commitment that Harvard will let the public use the auditorium. Other important details (if there will be a fee, at what time of day it might be available, what is a "special" event, etc.) are unknown. In any case, this is not space that the general public will use on a regular basis. A typical Allston or Brighton resident might step foot in the auditorium once or twice a year at most.

Harvard tells us almost nothing about the cafeteria. If good food is served, the space is inviting to the public, it is visible from Western Ave, and it is open from morning to evening it could be a great place that could benefit both the Harvard and Allston/Brighton communities.

The atrium "acts as a public pathway, serving as a public gateway to the other buildings." I guess it will be open to the public, but it seems to be 6,800 sq ft of space with, at best, minimal utility.

Retail space in this building could be a great asset. The stores could be convenient to all regardless of any Harvard affiliation. However, Harvard isn't telling us much of anything about how this space might work. (See page 2-26 for a discussion of Harvard's "ongoing evaluation".)

So less than half of the "public" space described by Harvard has much of any public value. Some people might say that Harvard has no obligation to have any public space in these buildings. My concern is more about morality than obligation. If Harvard wants to build private buildings with minimal public access then they should come out and tell us that. Our community does not have much of a partnership with Harvard if they tell us again and again how many great public uses there will be when there are actually very few.

It is strange that Harvard-sponsored proposals for public uses have vanished. In March 2006, Harvard hired the urban design firm Project for Public Spaces to do a workshop with Allston/Brighton residents. The summary posted on the Harvard website proposes "a Discovery Center or interactive exhibits" in the Science Complex. In Harvard's October 2006 description of the Science Complex there is a sizable exhibition space on the first floor along Western Ave. But these ideas are nowhere in Harvard's current plans.

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