The Globe Magazine has a lengthy profile today of Kairos Shen, the chief planner for the city of Boston. We have been seeing a lot more of Kairos in Allston in the past few months and he seems to be bringing a level of insight and deliberative review to development that was missing during the rush to approve the Harvard Science Complex.
One quote of note from the story:
"Menino says 'Kairos is spending time at Harvard dealing with the [Allston] community right now, and the feedback I get is 'Thank God you sent Kairos to help us.'' The chief planner 'has made a huge difference in the relationship between Harvard and the community,' he adds."
89-91 Dustin Street - Raise the roof line of the two-family dwelling to create additional attic space
40 Donnybrook Road - Erect a 5’x22’ addition to the garage.
Instead of "either or" thinking, there are ways that we could have both. Maybe motion sensors could be installed so the lights would come on (and stay on) automatically when there is someone there to use them. Or, like Raymore, Missouri, there could be a "user activated system" that lets people push a button to turn the lights on for a certain amount of time.
Harvard has programs to help undergraduates learn more about careers in public service, but programs like the Stride Rite Undergraduate Scholars Program could be greatly expanded. $500 or $2,000 awards to graduating seniors are nice, but not much in comparison to becoming a Goldman associate making $127,000. Of course public and private salaries will never be comparable, but Harvard could do more on and off its campuses in Cambridge, Allston, and elsewhere to show its students what possibilities exist.
President Faust based her 2008 Baccalaureate address on the ideas of wealth, career, and fulfillment and she concluded her speech at the Harvard ROTC Commissioning Ceremony by quoting from the Harvard Yard gate where it is written in stone "Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind." Words are a good start, hopefully they are followed by actions like those at the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts because members of the Harvard community certainly could do a lot more that would benefit themselves and others. Gardner's GoodWork project is a great start.
As this story in today's Globe describes, the Allston/Brighton North Neighbors Forum recently took a big step forward by developing a framework plan for the future of the Holton St Corridor. This area, owned almost entirely by Harvard, is bounded by Western Ave on the north, Lincoln St on the south, Everett St to the east, and Litchfield & Antwerp to the west.
Too much of this land sits vacant or underutilized and while Harvard owns 27 acres in this part of North Brighton it has announced no plans for any of these properties, other than the 6 acres in the northwest corner designated for the relocation of Charlesview.
Instead of just sitting around waiting for a new plan from Charlesview that may or may not respond to the BRA's commendable Scoping Determination, the ABNNF is proactively proposing a better and more complete solution consistent with our goals to:
- Create new housing, retail, and parks
- Develop a lively and attractive Western Ave
- Connect the neighborhoods east of Everett and west of Litchfield
- Improve the quality of life for existing residents.
- Respect the needs of both pedestrians and automobiles
- Plan housing for renters and homeowners, families and others
To achieve these goals, the plan includes:
- Extending existing east-west streets and creating new streets that will run N-S
- Buildings with the appropriate height and density on Western Ave
- New homes alongside existing homes comparable to our neighborhood today
- Relocating Shaw’s supermarket to Western Ave
- A public park near Holton and Everett streets
- Burying several hundred feet of Soldiers Field Road to create new parkland and improve our connection to the Charles River
5:30 - Discussion and vote on 23 Orkney Rd
5:45 - Discussion and vote on proposed revisions to the study report and vote on designation of the Sparhawk House @ 45 Murdock St as a Boston Landmark
Boston Landmarks Commission website
The larger point of the story remains valid - this $1.6 million dollar project so far seems to be far from the "significant asset for our tourism and visitor industry" carrying 1,500 vehicles a day that the business community predicted.
With major transportation problems here in A/B, the "need to study at least twice to spend wisely once" and try to understand why previous estimate have been right or wrong are ideas to remember.
The library has an impressive array of activities for kids and adults this summer. See http://www.bpl.org/news/upcomingevents.htm#allston for the complete list.
That position has now been filled by the hiring of Edward Forst, a top executive at investment bank Goldman Sachs.
The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Harvard Appoints Goldman Sachs Official as Executive Vice President
City to Experiment With Car-Free Streets - New York Times Blog
“You’ve got to try new things,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “It’s three Saturdays. If it does hurt and it doesn’t provide any benefits, we won’t do it anymore. If it turns out that it’s great, we’ll do it a lot more, I hope. But there’s only one way to find out and that’s to go and to try new things and to minimize the disruption.”
At 8:00 this morning, 125 swimmers took a 1 mile swim in the annual Charles River race.
Harvard has been spreading calcium chloride on Western Ave to reduce dust. According to Utah State University, "Calcium chloride is highly corrosive but slightly less damaging to vegetation and soils than sodium chloride." An Australian University notes that "The discharge of calcium chloride into rivers causes an unacceptable increase in calcium and chloride ion concentrations and affects local ecosystems." And a story in yesterday's Globe (Trying to make the blacktop greener) tells us that "There are many highway contaminants. Chloride, sodium, and calcium can accumulate on the pavement from salt and sanding operations... Once the contaminants are washed into waterways, they can be consumed by fish, frogs, and other aquatic life, or settle in the water, contributing to contaminant levels."
Boston makes it relatively easy for residents to buy compost bins (though none of the sale locations are near A/B) and it would be great if, like in Cambridge, there was an easy way for Boston residents to buy rain barrels. Collecting rain water that would otherwise go from roof to storm drain to river or ocean is a great way save water and reduce the cost of watering the garden. My do-it-yourself project isn't complete, but I put the four 55-gallon barrels under the downspouts yesterday in anticipation of some much-needed rain. Collecting a couple hundred gallons proved pretty easy even with just 3/10 of an inch of rain.
Men with a waistline of greater than 33 1/2" and women with a waistline greater than 35.4" and a weight-related ailment will be "given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months."
Of course I don't think that a program with similar goals in the US, to reduce "the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years" would use the same approach, but the intent - to help people become healthier and avoid the many negative effects on health related to being overweight or obese - is an admirable one.
Harvard's School of Public Health is expected to relocate to Allston at some point and there has been ongoing brainstorming about what type of partnerships might benefit both the HSPH and the local community. Many people at HSPH, specifically in its Department of Nutrition, are actively interested the connection between weight and health.
At a HSPH forum in 2005 titled "Weighing the Evidence: A Forum to Examine the Latest News About Overweight, Obesity and Mortality in America", experts discussed this "major health problem in the United States" and noted the importance of learning how to help people lose weight to reach a healthy size.
In its 2006 Health Status Report for Allston/Brighton, the Boston Public Health Commission listed obesity as one of the 5 key health issues in A/B. Even though A/B residents have one of the lowest obesity rates in Boston, our rate of 37% means that 25,000 people here are obese! Think of the potential for improved quality of life and reduced medical costs!
This partnership seems like one of the many "win-win" possibilities that could come from having Harvard be part of our neighborhood instead of just in our neighborhood. Harvard researchers could do important research about reducing obesity and A/B residents could enjoy better health and longer lives.
Japan, Seeking Trim Waists, Measures Millions - NYTimes.com
The Beacon Hill Civic Association has successfully sued Suffolk at least twice in the past and was prepared to go to court over Suffolk's new plan.
This week's edition of the Beacon Hill Times details what Suffolk and the Beacon Hill Civic Association both agreed to do and not do:
• Suffolk agrees to expand a previously established non-expansion zone. The new zone will also include Upper Beacon Hill, the area between Charles Street and the Charles River, and the Park Street area.
• 73 Tremont Street, One Beacon and the Center Plaza buildings will be excluded from the non-expansion zone. Suffolk will not build a dorm at 73 Tremont Street or within the Center Plaza buildings.
• Suffolk agrees to build no new classroom spaces, or seats, at One Beacon unless an equal number of spaces are removed from Suffolk's academic buildings on Temple Street.
• Suffolk agrees to not build a new athletic center, student center, dormitory, classroom buildings or office buildings within the non-expansion zone.
• Suffolk agrees to put no new classroom seats or laboratory seats anywhere in the new zone.
• Suffolk will remove 400 classroom seats from the Temple Street area and relocate them to the proposed 20 Somerset Street academic building.
• Suffolk will cease institutional use of the Ridgeway Building on Cambridge Street when an athletic center is built.
• Suffolk will remove the cafeteria on Temple Street when a student center with a dining facility is constructed.
• Suffolk will limit enrollment to 5,000 undergraduate full-time equivalent (FTE) students over the next 10 years.
• Suffolk will increase its goal of housing 50 percent of its undergraduate students to 70 percent. • Suffolk agrees to make its paid Boston Police details and neighborhood response unit a permanent part of its operation.
• Suffolk agrees to meet quarterly with the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) to discuss progress in meeting the terms of the master plan.
• The Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) agrees to support the 20 Somerset Street project as proposed while reserving the right to comment on final design of the project.
• BHCA will support the Modern Theater project as proposed.
• BHCA won't oppose Suffolk's new Institutional Master Plan.
Allston Village Main Streets is making some changes to its annual Taste of Allston event. This year it is at Herter Park along the Charles River on Sunday afternoon from 12-3. Tickets are $20 or $10 for children younger than 12. As always I am sure there will be a lot of great food.
- Tonight at the Gardner School at 6:30 to discuss our plan for the redevelopment of the Brighton Mills area
- Thursday at 6:30 at the intersection of Lincoln and Everett Streets to begin planning for our tree planting project along Everett Street. This work will be supported by the CityRoots grant we received from the Urban Ecology Institute.
Bob La Trémouille, co-editor of the Charles River White Geese Blog, posted the following to the Riverside Neighborhood Group email group about last night's Fenway Urban Ring meeting. The Urban Ring has the potential to make huge public transportation improvements for Allston, but the current configuration seems more concerned with the needs of Harvard and BU than the rest of the community.
To learn more and speak up for public transportation for the general public, please attend the meeting Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 6:30 pm at the Honan Library. Bob's meeting report follows:
At the Fenway meeting last night, the state representatives REFUSED to discuss the Allston plans in detail.
They showed two different versions of the Allston plans which connect to Harvard Square. The Allston plans will be discussed in a meeting which they describe as being with the Allston Civic Association at Honan-Allston Library, 300 North Harvard Street, Allston.
North Harvard Street runs from Harvard Square to the Hess Station on Cambridge Street. This library is about halfway between Cambridge Street and Western Avenue.
The Longwood bus tunnel proposal was discussed at the Fenway meeting in much greater detail, primarily because of the many questions it took to get some sort of semblance of meaningful description from them.
This tunnel would seem to cost about 60% of the total Urban Ring costs. The tunnel would run 1.5 miles under ground with only one stop apparent in the entire distance, at Longwood Avenue and Louis Pasteur. At the Roxbury end, the tunnel would come up opposite the busway at Ruggles Station.
The Fenway end of the tunnel was very difficult to drag out of them. The last, most specific version was that the tunnel would run under Longwood Avenue, pass under the prep schools athletic fields and go under the Riverside line at about Longwood Station. The tunnel was specifically stated to come out of the ground at the exact point where the Green Line goes underground.
This exact "portal" location seems still hard to believe because the state is also promising to continue a small vehicle highway which is proposed to be constructed by Boston in the next year or so next to the Riverside line starting at about Longwood Station and going in toward Kenmore.
Space is extremely tight where they are talking about the two "portals." It seems reasonable to assume that the Longwood tunnel "portal" would be on the Kenmore side of the Green Line "portal" to allow the small vehicle highway room to coexist. But, as I said, it was exist.
The 47 and CT-2 buses (along the the various other supposed "transit" routes would be rerouted to this tunnel. The buses would follow the Mass. Pike on Mountfort Street, which parallels the pike on the far side from Boston University. Mountfort Street is currently one way west bound between Park Drive and Beacon Streets. Mountfort Street would be made two way for buses only to connect straight-ahead to Yawkey Station through the existing parking lot south of Beacon Street. The buses would loop to Yawkey Station and go onto a new roadway between the buildings toward Brookline Ave. and the buildings toward Beacon Street, to the tunnel.
The Cambridge Inner Belt proposal is shown as a two lane highway coming over the rail bridge under the BU Bridge to a "Cambridgeport" stop which seems to be at the location proposed for that stop on the Urban Ring BU Bridge crossing. At this point, the new highway would be moved onto Albany Street.
The highway structure would be widened with another small vehicle highway. So the Inner Belt is extended quite a bit. When the tracks get to Main Street, you can see the Binney Connector which is the other end of the Inner Belt.
Historic Boston has a detailed overview of the history and status of the building which was built in 1959 for the Institute of Contemporary Art. The ICA left for the Back Bay in 1975 and then moved to its new waterfront location in 2006. In the 1980's the building was used as exhibit space for the Sports Museum but now it sits quiet doing nothing for the park in which it sits.
The Herter Park section of the largely-unfulfilled Charles River Master Plan makes the following recommendations:
But for now it seems that it will continue to just be a place where old (though probably interesting) stuff sits in the dark behind locked doors, though after the renovations are complete the building will be open by appointment for people interested in whatever its contents may be.
Provide public programming in the Herter Center that takes direct advantage of the river setting and theater space and benefits park users.
Future use should be self-supporting and contribute to the structure’s restoration and upkeep. Possible uses include an environmental education program or an MDC Park Ranger station. Park Rangers could lead nature walks to restored areas in Herter West and Hell’s Half Acre, working with visiting classes on environmental issues. A part-time educational and special events coordinator could handle outreach to public schools and manage public events at Herter Center.
The park facilities must be available for public functions. Allow occasional private uses to generate income within guidelines set by the MDC. A cafe featuring river views could be located in a portion of the building.
He compares the Allston expansions of Harvard and Genzyme to show how differently a school and business are treated - that Harvard has pledged $25 million in community benefits associated with its $1 billion Science Complex project and Genzyme is providing none as part of its $150 million expansion.
One might think that a major difference between Harvard and Genzyme is that tax-exempt Harvard pays no property tax while for-profit Genzyme does. But a review of the City's assessing data shows that Boston collects no tax from Genzyme. This is because the City gave a Chapter 121A exemption to Genzyme to support its development. So while the Genzyme building and land are valued at $19 million, Genzyme had a $2.9 billion profit in 2007, and Genzyme would otherwise pay the City $500,000 a year in taxes, in this regard Harvard and Genzyme are the same - they both get a tax-free ride while residents and other businesses shoulder the burden of funding Boston's $2.4 billion budget.
Taxes aside, the differences in scale between Harvard's expansion and Genzyme's expansion make a reasonable comparison between the two impossible.
- The Genzyme property (which is actually a Harvard-owned property leased to Genzyme) is 8.6 acres that is about as far from the Allston neighborhood as possible, and Genzyme is doing nothing to expand its presence beyond this site.
Harvard owns more than 300 acres in Allston and Brighton and is continually looking for more property to acquire.
- Genzyme is adding 86,000 square feet of office and manufacturing-support space
Harvard's 650,000 square foot Science Complex is the first piece 9-10 million square feet of new construction in the next 50 years.
- Genzyme's expansion will add 90 workers at its expanded factory.
Harvard's Science Complex will have 1,000 workers and the full expansion expects to add 15,000 new jobs.
The impact of 90 more people driving to work won't even be noticed, but our already choked roads will absolutely fail with several thousand more. New jobs and construction are of course vital to the regional economy, but so is continued investment in our transportation infrastructure, an area where Harvard has proposed very little and should at least take a position as a thought leader, due to the extent of its land holdings and magnitude of its future growth.
There are a lot of other problems with the "evidence" that Keane tries to use to prove his point, but trying to make an apples-to-apples comparison between these two projects may be the biggest.
City mulls new rules, fees for news boxes - The Boston Globe
Menino - "institutional expansion needs to be done in a way that is in harmony with our great neighborhoods"
1) The negotiation was between the university and a local neighborhood group, not the BRA's task force
2) Sometimes it takes some time to agree on these things. Eighteen months is certainly much longer than any time period required by the City's zoning in Article 80.
Beacon Hill, Suffolk reach expansion deal - The Boston Globe
Six miles south of Brighton Mills, a new mixed-income community is being built that is another possible model for what development in our neighborhood might be. It is called Olmsted Green and it is featured in this story in today's New York Times.
Olmstead Green is a 523 unit, mixed-use, mixed-income development on 42 acres of the former Boston State Hospital in Mattapan. It includes 287 market-rate units (a mix of condos and apartments), 83 units of affordable senior housing, and 153 units of affordable and work-force rental housing. It is the result of a partnership between the Lena Park CDC and the New Boston Fund and has been lauded by Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick.
Most units are 2 or 3 story townhomes with 2 or 3 bedrooms. Condos will be priced from $278,000 to $550,000.
The Times describes Olmsted Green as "a truly mixed-income, sustainable development where there is no discernible difference between market rate and affordable units".
Amenities include a health and fitness facility, a job-training and education center, child care, youth and senior programs, an urban farm, and free shuttles to nearby public transportation stops.
Olmstead Green was designed by ICON Architecture, the firm recently hired by Harvard University to work on the areas where Harvard's future campus will meet the Allston and Brighton community.
There are differences but also many similarities between the ABNNF plan and Olmsted Green. Both are examples of new, integrated neighborhoods that can fit well into existing Boston communities.
The study report by Commission staff provides great detail about this home that was built in 1802 and moved to its current location in 1873. Even though it is "one of only four known extant Federal period farmhouses built between 1786-1806 in the City of Boston", the building has been significantly altered over the years and it seems unlikely that there will be any definitive action taken to prevent its demolition.
Allston man arrested for Ashford St break-in.
BPDNews.com: DAILY INCIDENTS FOR TUESDAY, JUNE 3, 2008
The editors of the Harvard Crimson comment on the condition of the Harvard campus in Cambridge and Allston. They don't offer any specifics when they refer to "exorbitant" and "excessive" demands from the BRA and Allston community, but I'll agree with them that
"Harvard should always err on the side of generosity, not only to preserve the best possible relationship with the Allston community, but because, as the world’s richest university, we can afford to undertake the responsibilities to be an exemplary neighbor."They do get specific with some good ideas that are quite similar to what people in Allston have suggested when they write that Harvard "ought to entertain the possibility of opening a University affiliated high-school in Allston...open its shuttles to residents, create plenty of green spaces, and give the Allston community access to the planned art museum."
There are community gardens in neighborhoods all over Boston, but none in North Allston or North Brighton. Because our homes are so close together (limiting the amount of sunlight our yards get) and our house lots are quite small, a plot at a community garden is the only way many of us would be able to grow much of anything. Herter Park along the Charles has two gardens, but the gardeners seem to be people who drive in from other communities, not local neighbors meeting and socializing as they grow food and flowers. This list of gardens with available space shows that and Allston/Brighton resident starting a new garden would have drive several miles to find one.
The cost savings and better quality of food from your own garden is undeniable. I don't think we will every have the a garden large enough for 285 families like Mattapan has at the Clark Cooper Community Gardens. But some community gardening would certainly be better than none, either at Library Park or elsewhere.
The BC Task Force meets at 6:30 at the Brighton Marine Health Center, 77 Warren St
The Citizens Advisory Committee established by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office to review Harvard's master plan will hold its first meeting at the Allston-Brighton Resource Center at 367 Western Ave, also at 6:30.
Ticket prices range from $25-120 and can be purchased by phone at 617-931-2000; online at http://www.ticketmaster.com/artist/965749; at all Ticketmaster outlets; or at the Agganis Arena Ticket Office.
More info at the USA Gymnastics website
For the convenience of a few hundred cars, thousands of unsuspecting drivers (heading to Allston, Brighton, and other points west) are significantly delayed by this lane closure, wasting time and money (in the form of $4/gallon gas) and polluting the air in the process. The State says that this lane closure is justified by its safety benefits because the parked cars "create a barrier between the road for park users". First, I doubt that there is a safety problem at all. On days when there is not parking on Storrow Drive, how many cars go flying off the road onto the paths and parkland of the Esplanade? Second, if there is a safety problem, I bet there are better ways to solve it - maybe enforce the speed limit or install a guard rail.
If you don't like the status quo, you can call or write to Rick Sullivan the commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway St., Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114-2104