Last night's Harvard Task Force meeting

At last night's meeting the Task Force unanimously approved the following comment on Harvard's Master Plan Notification Form. The Task Force also supported a vote of "no confidence" regarding the current Charlesview relocation and expansion proposal. The Harvard Crimson reported on the meeting in this story.

The members of the Harvard Allston Task Force look forward to Harvard’s submission of an Institutional Master Plan (IMP) that implements an expansion of Harvard’s campus that improves the quality of life for current and future residents of North Allston and North Brighton.
The Institutional Master Plan Notification Form (IMPNF) submitted by Harvard is a vague draft that fails to address community quality of life issues including:

  • Decades of impacts from proposed massive construction
  • Creating open, accessible, and inviting green spaces
  • Public health impacts associated with increased vehicle emissions
  • Stewardship of an overburdened, inaccessible, and inadequately maintained Charles River
  • Increased demand on overloaded transportation systems and services

The improvements to neighborhood quality of life we expect to see in the IMP should be pro-active and integrated into the physical and programmatic essence of the IMP, not as “benefits” after the plan is implemented. This will require significant changes, not mere refinements, to the plan presented in the IMPNF in many areas including:

  • Transportation – Major improvements for public transportation, private vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians are needed to support the needs of the 15,000 new workers that Harvard expects to bring to North Allston. The IMPNF suggests improvements for Harvard people traveling inside Harvard’s campus. But lacking from the IMPNF are the considerable improvements to the public infrastructure needed for 15,000 additional commuters to get from their homes to North Allston, such as reconfiguring access to and from the Mass Pike. A convoy of private shuttles from Harvard Square to Allston is not the answer. Timing of all transportation improvements relative to construction of new buildings should be included in the IMP.
  • Barry’s Corner - The IMP should be clearly consistent with the expectation stated in the North Allston Strategic Framework for Planning (NASFP) that Barry’s Corner will become 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.” Barry’s Corner is not the right place for Harvard’s private athletic facilities. Specific information is needed about how culture and performing art facilities in Barry’s Corner will contribute to a lively and vibrant Main Street.
  • Housing – A key housing goal of the NASFP is to “Integrate new Harvard and community housing to form lively new neighborhood settings.” Harvard’s IMPNF fails to suggest any new community housing and most new Harvard housing is clustered far from the community. Instead of surrounding the Windom & Hopedale neighborhood with rental housing exclusively for transient Harvard students, we expect the IMP will propose an equitable mix of rental and ownership units for Harvard affiliates integrated with similar housing for people with no Harvard affiliation. In particular, Harvard must use its land and resources to help create home ownership opportunities for middle-income families, particularly those with ties to the North Allston/North Brighton community.

    Given the major impacts of the Charlesview relocation, Harvard must accept responsibility for that project and renegotiate its land exchange and financial support to accommodate the clearly articulated housing goals of the community as stated in comments on the Charlesview PNF and in the NASFP.
  • Urban Design – Harvard’s IMP should include design guidelines that respect the intentions of the NASFP and conform to the scale, height, street grid and urban fabric of the existing residential community. Where Harvard's proposals deviate from the NASFP, Harvard must show how, and using which specific land parcels, it intends to mitigate those excessive scales with properly scaled urban fabric and open space.
  • Open Space – The IMP must show how it will extend the campus open space framework to include the entire North Allston/North Brighton community. In particular, Harvard should commit to use its land and resources to create an open space corridor along the Everett St and Holton St corridors with an accessible, green crossing to the Charles River.

It is crucial that the IMP explain how Harvard’s expansion will improve North Allston and North Brighton in the next 5-10 years. The possibility of projects 30 or 40 years in the future has relatively little relevance to current residents. Considering the limited information in the IMPNF and the considerable changes that we believe are needed, we suggest that Harvard submit a series of written “IMP working drafts” with sufficient time for public comment and response to help Harvard and the community work toward a mutually acceptable final IMP.

Sincerely – The Harvard Allston Task Force

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