Who is thinking outside the yard?

Think outside the yard - The Boston Globe

I was surprised to read this column in the Globe today and find the Allston community described as "suspicious neighbors" who might "stifle innovation" by Harvard.

The author, Yvonne Abraham, chronicles Harvard's many mis-steps in Allston. As she says "Harvard has whiffed in the recent past".

1) "The Spangler Center at Harvard Business School, completed in 2001, is a riot of retro, a slave to that thing they did so well over there at Harvard Yard -- in the 18th century"

2) "Across the river at One Western Avenue, the university's graduate housing complex of multihued brick and irregular windows was met with scathing criticism by neighbors and architects when it opened in 2003."

3) "Using a third party to buy up acres of Allston in the 1990s, the school didn't endear itself to future neighbors."

And many Allston residents will agree with her that we should "hold Harvard's feet to the fire on open space and benefits for the community".

But when did we start trying to stifle innovation?

I have only heard praise for Harvard's goals to build buildings that will use much less energy than traditional construction. The modern glass and stone look of the buildings has not been a topic of community opposition.

I would say that the community has asked Harvard to be more innovative in how it can build this project and minimize the impact on the community - more innovative when it creates open space so that both the general community and Harvard community can enjoy the space - more innovative in how it would like to form a relationship with the Allston community instead of repeating the conflict that has characterized Harvard's relations with other nearby communities - more innovative in its planning for the future and the rebuilding of the local economy that has been so hurt by Harvard's mothballing of acres of usable land - more innovative to think about community benefits in a way that the considers the wide range of resources that Harvard has at its disposal and how that could make a profound difference for the future of its neighbors - more innovative about improving the transportation infrastructure whose roads and bridges are already frequently dysfunctional and will only become more so as thousands of new people enter Allston to work or live on Harvard's expanded campus - and the list goes on and on.

So Harvard - please draw on the greatest minds of our generation from across your university and beyond. Please put forth a bold vision as Ms. Abraham says great universities should do when they expand. We will look forward to seeing it!

Allston and Brighton neighbors who might want to let the Globe's readers know that we have no intention of "stifling" Harvard's innovation can write to the Globe using this form.

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