A take-home exam for Harvard (with no easy answers)

Last night, Boston's chief planner Kairos Shen presented a Draft BRA Outline for Harvard Institutional Master Plan Scope. This title may not sound exciting, but its contents certainly are.

The City is requiring Harvard to modify, or at least create alternatives to, its draft 50-year Master Plan published in January of 2007. Kairos repeatedly referred to this scoping document as the questions of an exam that Harvard's planners and their consultants will have to answer. He was also clear that they will not answer these questions in isolation - Harvard, the BRA, and community will jointly arrive at answers to these questions.

The goals expressed in this document are
  • linking local neighborhoods with each other and with the academic community
  • improved connections between the community and parklands
  • creating centers of neighborhood activity with housing, retail, culture, and more

Kairos (and, by extension, the rest of the BRA and the Mayor) seems to be siding with many people who have been hoping for more than just the "refinements" that Harvard planners have suggested they would make to the existing plan. He challenged fundamental issues like the segregated nature of Harvard's proposed campus (science here, housing there, academic somewhere else...), the size of blocks and buildings, and the limited geographic scope of Harvard's plan. By specifically mentioning areas like Lincoln Street and Everett Street, and by using language like "an integrated circulation network consistent with a comprehensive approach to the evolution of a better North Allston neighborhood", it is clear that the discussion is going to be about much more of the neighborhood than Harvard had intended.

Your feedback to this draft was welcomed by Kairos and I think it is needed in some areas. For example, Hague Street seems to be too much at the edge of the neighborhood to make it an appropriate place for a new transportation center. But on the whole it is a great document.

1 comment:

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