In this story in today's Globe, Harvard has the nerve to defend how it has interacted with the community as it has negotiated with Charlesview:
"Harvard officials say that neighbors have been kept informed during the process...Kevin McCluskey, Harvard's director of community relations, said the university had kept community members updated "on a fairly regular basis.""Did Harvard meaningfully inform and update the Allston/Brighton community? Absolutely not.
The typical response from Harvard was "our update is we have no update", "we are still working on it", or the negotiations are "a discussion between two private parties." So yes, they did provide vague "mind your own business" updates that in no way invited the community into discussion what type of development would be welcomed by abutters on Litchfield & Holton Streets and residents the rest of the neighborhood.
Now The Community Builders (who claim to have some aptitude in community involvement such as on the project where "in consultation with local stakeholders, TCB developed a comprehensive 20-year vision for the neighborhood") are on the verge of submitting their proposal to the BRA. Thankfully we can stop having to ask Harvard about this major land transaction and development in our neighborhood. Maybe a more inclusive and collaborative process can result that considers the needs and interests of the whole community. It can't get much worse.
Below are excerpts from Harvard Task Force meetings where Charlesview was mentioned. (These excerpts don't include the last 3 months of Task Force meetings because the BRA has not published minutes for those meetings.).
January 26, 2006
Michael Hanlon inquired whether Harvard is giving itself a deadline to settle the Charlesview negotiations. Kathy answered that Harvard does not have a deadline.
March 1, 2006
Harvard has offered the Charlesview Board of Directors a portion of the University-owned property in the Brighton Mills Shopping Center--currently leased to K-Mart--as a possible site for the relocation of the Charlesview Apartments. As a meeting has been scheduled for Thursday night (March 2nd) with the abutters of the Brighton Mills property to discuss this proposal, Kathy wanted the members of the Task Force to be aware of the offer before it receives any further publicity.
Members of the Task Force raised several questions about the Brighton Mills site offer and the potential relocation of Charlesview: What is the process for Charlesview’s decision-making? What will happen to the remaining commercial portions of Brighton Mills if Charlesview occupies the K-Mart site? What will be the density and height of the new Charlesview buildings? Are special zoning approvals and/or variances needed? Will the Task Force have a role in reviewing the proposed relocation and the new construction? Will Harvard play an active role in the development of the new Charlesview buildings? What if Charlesview accepts Harvard’s site offer, but then is unable to secure the necessary zoning approvals? What are the tax-base implications of replacing a business such as K-Mart with the Charlesview housing? How soon is Charlesview expected to respond to Harvard’s offer?
Kathy stated that it is too early in the process to have definitive answers to many of these questions, but that there would be further opportunity for questions and additional discussion with the Task Force on this topic if and when Charlesview responds positively to Harvard’s offer.
March 13, 2006
Ray asked for an update on the negotiations between Charlesview and Harvard. Kevin McCluskey replied that Harvard has offered a swap of five acres of land at the University-owned Brighton Mills Shopping Center in exchange for the site of the Charlesview Apartments. The Charlesview Board sent the proposal to the Charlesview Development Committee and Kevin assumes that they are working on a response back to Harvard. Kevin said that the Shaw’s building will remain under lease and that the University recognizes that Shaw’s is a valuable service provider for the community. Ray referred to the meeting minutes from the March 1st meeting and asked whether there were any new answers to a lot of the procedural questions that were raised, such as whether the Task Force will have a role in the review and approvals process for the new Charlesview building if the deal is accepted. Gerald Autler responded that this issue is going to come up in a number of ways and it is going to be a balancing act to determine what role the Task Force will play. The Task Force is charged with reviewing Harvard’s Institutional Master Plan and it is important for the Task Force to stay focused.
John Bruno said that Charlesview may want to increase the number of units for the complex and that this would dictate the massing and density. John felt the Task Force should be involved in such a change in consideration of the current neighbors of Brighton Mills.
April 26, 2006
Mike asked if there was anything new to report with regard to the Charlesview negotiations, and Kathy replied that there were no updates to report at this time.
July 26, 2006
Ray Mellone: I think Harvard needs to solve the Charlesview negotiations. Harvard should offer Charlesview empty tenant locations on Soldier’s Field Road toward the river. This is what a lot of residents have asked for and it will improve their quality of life. The Brighton Mills shopping center doesn’t meet that demand.
Kathy Spiegelman: We’re pretty far down the road into the negotiations with Charlesview and Harvard is committed to making it work. There may be opportunities for other housing across Western Avenue.
August 14, 2006
Ray Mellone asked for an update on the Charlesview negotiations. Kevin McCluskey said that Harvard and the Charlesview Board continue to make progress in their discussions and the status of Harvard’s negotiations with Charlesview shouldn’t be characterized as a stalemate.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Audience member: What is the status of the Charlesview negotiations?
Kathy Spiegelman: The Charlesview board and Harvard signed a Letter of Intent in 2006. We’re working hard on a purchase and sales agreement. We hope this will be finalized in the next 30-60 days.