One problem with the TAB article is this claim made by Boston Chief Planner Kairos Shen that:
"the university had already incorporated many of the suggestions it has received, such as extending Rena Park all the way to the Charles River."
The bicycle network in the upper-right shows a "major dual use path" in green that comes to a dead-end before reaching Soldiers Field Road. Below that, Harvard's river crossing diagram shows nothing where the image in the upper left shows a big swath of green connecting the campus and river.
The problem has nothing to do with the fact that Harvard's images were "computer-drawn, rather than by hand", as suggested in the TAB. The real problem is that key information is missing and different parts of Harvard's proposal contradict other parts. We don't need swoopy, curvy arrows that obscure the reality of what Harvard wants to build. Harvard wants to wrap up this master plan in just a few months, so it is time for clear, unambiguous detail of what it wants to build here in Allston.
Residents attack proposed revisions to Harvard’s plans - Allston/Brighton TAB
The Harvard Crimson :: Allston Meeting Becomes Heated
A couple years ago the Harvard Allston Task Force's interim use subcommittee asked Harvard to replace the ugly fence there but was told that Harvard couldn't "step foot" on that property because of the CSX easement. That didn't make much sense. Why and how would a tenant prevent a landlord from improving their property if the improvement didn't adversely affect the tenant's use of the property?
So after that reluctance it was encouraging to hear that somehow Harvard and CSX had figured out how to agree that the old fence could be replaced.
As nice as it was for Harvard to put up the fence, it was even worse that their new fence didn't even last a month. Could it not withstand a 39 mph gust of wind on Sunday morning? This is at least as sorry as the collapse of the Pike's fence along Lincoln Street in 2005.
The owner had permits for demolition, but did not have a permit for asbestos removal, said Leon Bethune, the director of the environmental health office at the Boston Public Health Commission. Removing the asbestos shingles required permits from both the health commission and the Department of Environmental Protection, Bethune said.
After inspecting the shingles, the health commission determined that they were in fact asbestos and should have been removed prior to demolition.
“Basically, [the owner] violated a whole bunch of laws by doing this,” Bethune said.
My disappointment at the lack of neighborly consideration became outrage today when I passed the sight and saw an asbestos abatement crew and signs warning about "cancer and lung disease hazard".
The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Harvard Shows Revised Allston Plan to Residents
Harvard proposes changes to Allston plans - Allston/Brighton TAB
“Everyone’s always talking about Barry’s corner, but nothing’s getting done,” said Allston resident Leonard W. Kelliher. “Well, build the damn thing and build the rest of Harvard around it!”
“If you build food service areas deep into the campus, they detract from Barry’s corner,” task force member Brent Whelan said (correction: it was Bruce Houghton who said this), referring to the large intersection at North Harvard Street and Western Ave. that Harvard has promised to revitalize as part of its expansion. “I’m thinking about retail as squares of compressed areas where it’s all accessible.”
“We think that this should be an integrated city, and I look at this plan and I don’t see anything towards that end,” said task force member Harry Mattison, who has been critical of Harvard’s plans in the past. “Every time you talked about your plans and said ‘Oh, maybe there will be some community there too,’ it is sort of an afterthought.”
Residents and members of the Harvard Allston Campus Task Force expressed skepticism as to how open the campus would truly be. “The problem is getting in, not looking in,” said CTF member Michael Hanlon.
One of the most contentious issues of the evening was whether Harvard’s plans were sufficient to revitalize Barry’s Corner. The plan included the construction of four buildings that would serve as cultural venues within two blocks of the corner, a move criticized by the task force as catering only to daytime visitors to the area.
Speaking to a proposed open-air ice-skating rink two blocks northeast of Barry’s Corner, CTF member Harry Mattison said, “You don’t put a skating rink right in the middle of what’s supposed to be your big public area.”
Others felt that Harvard’s proposed improvements didn’t meet Allston residents’ expectations for the project. “Try to figure out what we want there, in terms of vibrancy, and what would support that,” said CTF Chairman Ray Mellone.
“This still isn’t a plan that integrates the community and the campus. This was a plan for two communities,” rather than one unified Harvard-Allston community, Mattison
The Globe quotes the The Boston Foundation who says that the City and State face serious challenges that require "extraordinary collaborative efforts." Here in Allston, where Harvard's campus is expanding, residents daily see those challenges in areas like housing, transportation, and education. So far, we don't see much serious collaboration with Harvard or others to improve things in these areas.
The editorial concludes with the aspiration for collaboration that "would be truly great if it could also produce a world-class city for everyone else". If Harvard develops hundreds of acres in Allston and its neighbors are just an afterthought, as it seemed from last night's presentation, a tremendous opportunity for collaboration will have been missed.
On a related note, today is the deadline to submit comments about the proposed development at 332 Chestnut Hill Ave. But when I went to the BRA's website to learn more about the project I found only a 2 sentence description, no mention that today is the comment deadline, and no link to the Project Notification Form.
If the City/BRA has the time and money to get fancy with a social network, it should do some basic work on www.cityofboston.gov/bra ASAP so that it at least is performing its basic function of informing citizens about proposed development in our neighborhoods.
Below are the comments I submitted after last week's Community Wide Planning meeting.
1. Commercial district "feel" and level of activity
2. The Harvard "bubble"
3. Smith Health Center and Mahoney's Garden Center
6. Magnitude of development
7. Shape of Barry's Corner
Commercial district "feel" and level of activity
An interesting way to think about our public realm planning is to imagine taking a walk through the neighborhood. This walk should be imagined at various times - during the workday, on weekends, evenings, and during the summer - and the walk should take us through the Holton St Corridor, North Harvard St from Western Ave to the river, and the entire length of Western Ave. Where will there be different types of activity and places of business? Where and when will it be quiet or more lively? This approach could also help us visualize the phasing of development. How will these walks feel in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years?
The Harvard "bubble"
Harvard already has thousands of students, faculty, and staff who work in Allston but we see none of them in Barry's Corner buying lunch or doing errands during lunch hour or after work. Instead, they stay on campus and use the post office, food court, bar/restaurant, and a Harvard Coop book store in basement of the Spangler Center. Harvard's Science Complex will be under a similar "bubble", with a private fitness center, private bar/restaurant, and other factors that will keep its workers inside instead of walking the streets of Allston and patronizing a variety of public businesses. Agreeing with Harvard to shift its new campus from its current model to a more public orientation is key to the success of the Allston economy and public realm.
Smith Health Center and Mahoney's Garden Center
The Joseph Smith Health Center and Mahoney's Gardner Center deserve specific consideration in our planning for Western Ave.
Mahoney's is a successful locally owned business with a proven commitment to our community. It is also a place of exceptional natural beauty. Our planning should help provide Mahoney's with surroundings that will help it prosper. Mahoney's would like to stay in our neighborhood and build a larger facility. Where do you think this location should be? If Mahoney's expands in its current location (200 yards west of the Holton Street Corridor's western edge), should our planning for the Holton Street Corridor extend west to include the Mahoney's and the office building next door? If not, what should occur in this gap?
The Health Center needs a larger facility to meet the needs of its current operations. Planning for its future could also consider the possibility of it becoming an outpatient medical facility for more A/B North residents. It could also be a place for Harvard's Allston community to receive health care. In any of these scenarios, the Health Center can be a valuable addition to a retail/commercial district because of its large number of patients and employees. Our planning should suggest at least one appropriate location on Western Ave for the Health Center.
We need to figure out how to create meaningful retail improvements in less than the 5-7 years suggested. We also need a plan for what will happen in Barry's Corner, the Holton St Corridor, and other commercial areas of our neighborhood in the next 1-5 years.
Housing is a crucial subject that unfortunately we did not have time to discuss on Wednesday, other than to hear the good news that there is sufficient market demand to justify new housing. I hope this topic will receive the time it deserves during our next meeting and will include development of specific, measurable goals in key areas like homeownership, affordability, and housing designed for families and senior citizens.
Magnitude of development
The North Allston Strategic Framework made specific recommendations for the square footage of retail proposed in Barry's Corner and the Holton St Corridor. From the CWP preliminary concepts, it is unclear how much space is proposed for various uses, building heights, etc. Please provide this information and quantify estimates of how many businesses of various types might be expected (2 restaurants, 10 restaurants?).
Shape of Barry's Corner
It was mentioned that the shape of Barry's Corner and the triangular island (home to the Exxon station) are problematic. Harvard Square overcomes similar oddities, but the reality in Allston may be that we should redesign Western Ave and North Harvard Street. This change could also have transportation benefits. The orange lines I've drawn below might be all wrong, but is there an option that you could provide for everyone's review?
City Councilor Rob Consalvo of Hyde Park seemed intent on doing something about this 4 years ago, but according to a letter from a Brighton resident that was the subject of this GlobeWatch column in today's Globe, the City and State are still unable to collect these millions of dollars that are literally sitting on our streets waiting to be collected. As the City and State are both about to make major budget cuts in response to declining revenues, it is time for our government to figure out how to collect this money that it is due.
Pulitzer is a member of Harvard's President’s Advisory Committee on the Allston Initiative, and she commented to Harvard Magazine about Harvard's abortive attempt to build an arts building in Allston that would have been more a warehouse and office building and less a place for display and enjoyment of art. The modest gallery space in that building certainly would not have had the "large galleries for monumental contemporary works" now on the drawing board for Allston.
Pulitzer told Harvard Magazine:
Hopefully others at Harvard share her ambition and what Harvard includes in its new master plan is worthy of her lofty goals.
“I think [having cancelled the Allston project is] really fortunate in a way, because what [ultimately] comes in Allston will be so much better”—in the wake of Harvard’s forthcoming revision of the Allston plans and the pending task-force report on the arts at Harvard in general. New art museum spaces, a new plan for the Peabody Museum, and new performing-arts facilities as yet unimagined are all part of the Allston possibilities she envisions.
"Menino predicted the city may be forced to postpone as much as $120 million worth of capital improvement projects, including maintenance and repairs of playgrounds, parks, sidewalks, streets, and schools."
You must re-register to vote if you have moved to Boston, changed your name, or would like to change your party enrollment. If you move within the City of Boston, you must update your registration by notifying the Boston Election Department of your change of address in writing.
The ACA will meet tomorrow at 6:30 at the Honan Library
- Harvard University: Request to install two wind turbines on top of the Soldiers Field Road garage for power.
- El Cafetal, 479 Cambridge St. Request for Beer & Wine license.
- Do Re Me Karaoke, Cambridge St. Request to extend hours of operation until 2:00A.M.
- Punjab Palace, Brighton Ave. Request to add Cordials to existing Beer & Wine license.
Obviously a lot has changed in the last 100+ years, and as we are now doing planning that will shape our neighborhood for the next 100+ years, it is time to re-consider the location, design, and use of Smith Field.
A lot of land - Not a lot of use
Often, Smith Field is empty or close to it. 14 acres is a lot of space, but Smith doesn't offer much to attract many users, as shown in Boston's Park Used Most Often data. Only 8 people selected Smith as the park they use most often, while 20 chose Ringer Park (10 acres) and 14 chose Rogers Park (8 acres). This is a small number of respondents, but I think the percentages would be similar in a larger survey. So while park size is necessary for some uses, a bigger park is not necessarily a better or more popular park, and after all, the point of having parks is for them to be used and enjoyed.
How much do we use what Smith Field now has?
Today Smith has 3 softball fields, 2 little league fields, 2 basketball courts, a small playground, open areas used for soccer, and a street hockey rink. Dogs and an occasional golfer are also seen at Smith. Do we need so many softball & little league fields? Could we use 14 acres differently to provide more recreational options for people who aren't interested in playing ball?
Urban planner Steve Cecil commented on Tuesday that the position of Smith Field limits the possibilities for the future of Barry's Corner. He explained that a 60 foot gap in active uses along a street discourages pedestrians from walking further. Smith Field's 400 foot long stone wall and often silent contents clearly qualifies as such a break in the continuity of pedestrian experience.
One possibility would be to narrow Smith Field along Western Ave. The playground and basketball courts behind it could remain where they are. The little league field that is currently along Western Ave could move either onto the 9-acre WBZ property or the abutting property that is already owned by Harvard.
This move would allow Barry's Corner to expand to the west and join with the existing (but empty) retail stores (former home of Charlesbank Cleaners) and down towards the new and much-improved Holton Street Corridor that was also discussed at Tuesday's meeting.
Should Smith Field be divided into multiple, smaller parks?
There are other locations in the neighborhood where decent sized parks could be created that would be more accessible to more people.
At Tuesday's meeting we saw three designs that would create a lot of new parkland in the Holton Street Corridor and other parcels such as the old Verizon building at 224 Western Ave (next to the Dunkin Donuts) have been mentioned as possible park locations. There are also some small commercial/industrial buildings along Franklin St and elsewhere that could conceivably relocate to make room for small parks in the neighborhood.
A balance of large and small parks is crucial. Tiny Winthrop Square in Cambridge (corner of JFK & Mt Auburn) was mentioned several times at Tuesday's meeting. It is a nice little park, but it is a very little park and it is not the only park in the area. The much larger Cambridge Common and JFK park are a short walk away and provide places for playing ball, running dogs, and other things you can't do in a 1/16th of an acre.
Shattering Smith Field into a dozen tiny parks is not the right answer. But being bound by inertia and 110 year old land-use decisions is also not the way to make a great 21st century community.
This week's A/B North Community Wide Planning meeting was the best one so far, though I still think that the meeting agendas are way too ambitious and that when so many important and multi-faceted issues are crammed into a single meeting there is too little time for the information to be digested, understood, and discussed.
Tuesday's meeting earlier this week gave less than 2 hours to discuss Barry's Corner, the Holton Street Corridor, neighborhood-wide open space, and sustainability from a community viewpoint.
Tuesday's meeting on the 14th will tackle housing, retail, and mutually beneficial development strategies.
I'm all for getting things done, but I don't really like drinking from a fire hose. It's fun to watch Cookie Monster play Beat the Time, but that doesn't seem like the best way to plan a community's future.
(The end of this skit is particularly poignant considering the ongoing discussions about commuter rail. If Cookie Monster can get a train to stop on Guy Smiley's set, then maybe we can get one to stop in Allston or Brighton too)
125-127 Brooks St - Combine parcels and erect a two-family dwelling
1213-1223 Commonwealth Ave - Change the legal occupancy from stores, offices a retail store,
and restaurant w/#36A to stores, offices a retail store, restaurant
w//36A, and an indoor café with smoking.
11 Montcalm Ave - Create off street parking for one vehicle
Short Fuse - The Boston Globe
Bloomberg, who was born at St. Elizabeth's hospital, lived as a tot in Allston and Brookline, and grew up in Medford, might consider a run for mayor of Boston. Mayor Menino, who's expected to seek a fifth term, needs the competition - and the Hub could benefit from Bloomberg's new ideas
"...The $125 million gift, the largest in Harvard's history, comes from Hansjörg Wyss, a native of Switzerland who graduated from Harvard Business School in 1965. It will go to fund the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering over the next five years. The new institute will be part of the much-touted science complex in Allston, which will also house the Harvard Stem Cell Institute; the Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department, a joint venture between the Medical School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and the Medical School’s Systems Biology Department."
Based on today's story in the Globe - Neighbors help Lesley design its new dorms - Lesley really is working together with its neighbors and reporter Peter Schworm is absolutely right that this is "a sharp contrast to the ongoing tussles over expansions at Boston College, Northeastern, and Harvard."
The project's architect "said the final project is superior to the original" even though Lesley will probably lose money on the commercial shops that were added to the first floor of one building. I've met residents who are active in this part of Cambridge and they are no pushovers.
How great (an unimaginable to some) would it be for Drew Faust or William Leahy to feel this way?
Lesley president Joseph B. Moore praised the neighbors' dedication and said he agreed with their resolve to have the buildings blend with the neighborhood. "It wasn't negotiations, it was collaboration," he said.
The September 21 story, Designing new Harvard neighborhoods, concluded with what many people found to be a disturbing statement by Steve Cecil, whose firm The Cecil Group was hired by the BRA to lead the Community Wide Planning initiative.
"Cecil said that the challenge planners faced at the Brighton Mills and the nearby Holton Street corridor was to find a development that would make enough money to warrant tearing down what is now there."First, the existing uses aren't so great that it should be a big hurdle to tear down the old, tired one-story commercial/industrial buildings around Western Ave and Holton Street.
Second, and of greater concern, was the implication that Harvard's development would be predicated on its ability to make a profit. Harvard is a non-profit institution and there are many precedents for Harvard and other property owners to offer below-market rents or otherwise support desirable businesses or to improve local quality of life. For example, Thursday's Globe mentioned the sale of the Harvard Book Store and the "low lease costs" for the independent book store in Harvard Square that has Harvard University as its landlord.
Bruce Houghton is frequenty eloquent on the subject of how Harvard might consider its role and responsibilities in Allston, and this case was no exception:
But residents quickly pointed out that Harvard's objectives in developing in Allston were not just about turning a profit on any particular block, but also about advancing the university's goals, which could include putting staff and faculty housing in nearby neighborhoods, keeping areas abutting its campus particularly livable and vibrant, and providing recreation and open space for students and faculty.
"You can't visualize the Allston neighborhood in a traditional market way," said Bruce Houghton of the Harvard Task Force. "You have to assume that this area is owned by a rich institution that would like a healthy and vibrant neighborhood for the benefit of its mission."
The story in today's paper - Stopping traffic before it starts expanded Harvard - also does a great job of capturing important parts of the September 24 meeting that I described last week. Some of the suggestions made by the Cecil Group and Harvard could be good ones, but "in the limited time allowed" for residents' questions and feedback, we could do little (if anything) more than hear people's quick initial reactions before jumping to another topic.
Would adding at-grade pedestrian crossings to Soldiers Field Road "push traffic into the neighborhoods" as suggested by Paul Berkeley? Maybe, and because the meeting agenda overflowed with presentations spanning the spectrum of transportation issues, we had no opportunity for a thoughtful discussion on the subject. The possible changes of Soldiers Field Road, from the Western Ave/Watertown intersection to the Cambridge Street/River Street Bridge area, is not a trivial subject that can be resolved in a few minutes. What if we had an entire meeting on just this one subject?
Andreae quotes a spokeswoman for the BRA named Jessica Shumaker who tells us that there will "absolutely" be additional time to discuss transportation in 2009. Why should we wait 3+ months to discuss such a crucial topic? As far as I know Jessica Shumaker has never been to a Harvard Allston meeting, and it would be a lot more reassuring if BRA Deputy Director Mike Glavin or Chief City Planner Kairos Shen were making these public statements. According to the Mayor, people in Allston were saying "Thank God you sent Kairos to help us", and it would be great to see Kairos doing more in public to help us instead of quietly sitting in a chair during these planning meetings or not showing up at all.
The BRA has a Barry's Corner presentation scheduled for Tuesday's meeting. We've heard many wonderful-sounding promises and visions for Barry's Corner throughout the years - in some ways it has been the "carrot" dangled in front of the community that will make up for all the inconveniences and negative impacts of Harvard's expansion. The North Allston Strategic Framework described it as "providing common ground for both residential neighborhood and academic community", "a vibrant commercial center", and "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." Hopefully on Tuesday we will see some specific proposals for how this will become a reality in the near future.
The meeting begins at 5:15 and BC is scheduled to be discussed from 6:10 - 6:50. For more info contact David Carlson @ 617-918-4284 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Full text of the Superintendent's statement
Summary of the proposal
- The Garfield and Hamilton schools close
- The Garfield School building will be used by the Mary Lyons to allow it to expand from K-8 to K-12
- The Edison expands from 6-8 to K-8
- Garfield students will attend the Edison
- The Hamilton building will no longer be used by BPS
The Boston Globe is looking for comments from people who would be affected by the proposed school closings. You can email James Vaznis at email@example.com with your comments.
Public meetings will be held at schools that would be affected by this plan. Dates and times have not been announced for these meetings.
The Allston/Brighton elementary schools are:
Mary Lyon, K2-8, 114 students (13 students/grade)
Jackson Mann, K0-6, 592 students (66 students/grade)
Winship, K0-5, 213 students (27 students/grade)
Garfield, K1-5, 199 students (28 students/grade)
Hamilton, K1-5, 174 students (25 students/grade)
Baldwin, K0-1, 180 students (45 students/grade)
Gardner, K1-5, 312 students (45 students/grade)
The Mary Lyon is likely to expand by adding a high school, so it is not closing. The Jackson/Mann - the largest school in A/B - and the Gardner - the 2nd largest & only one north of the Pike - would seem like unlikely candidates to close.
School chief seeks to reorganize - The Boston Globe