Crimson looks at Harvard vacant property

The Crimson gets the numbers behind Harvard's claim that 85% of its leasable property is leased. Harvard considers 892,317 square feet leasable and 790,000 not leasable. This means that only 45% of Harvard's Allston Brighton property is leased.

It's too bad that the Harvard professors interviewed - an urban designer and a real estate expert - offer no creative ideas and show no enthusiasm for taking even a small step toward the "main street" promised by the North Allston Strategic Framework. Their message shows a "can't do" attitude and tells us to wait 50 years for Harvard to bring some life to the neighborhood that it has mothballed for the last decade.


  1. Anonymous7:12 AM

    I've never understood the idea of "mothballing" properties. As a land owner, isn't it in Harvard's best interests to have paying tenants in its buildings. Based on the article it seems that the only buildings Harvard is not trying to lease are either part of an existing deal like Brighton Mills with Charlesview, or properties that have never been in a condition to lease like CC&F.

  2. Most normal land owners would of course want paying tenants in their buildings because the reason the own the property is to make a profit. Harvard is no typical land owner and their primary goal isn't to make a profit - it is to expand their university decades and centuries into the future. In concept that expansion could benefit many people in many ways, but couldn't Harvard be a better neighbor in the interim?

    Its hard to know how hard Harvard is trying to lease its property, but I'd say their lack of results over the past 10 years (not just since the Great Recession started) speak for themselves.

  3. wellbasically1:56 PM

    Is there anybody at Harvard who is doing the work we're looking for? There is an old saying in international relations: "Feed the doves". Find the people at Harvard who would be better in charge of this project and make ties with them, rather than the "hawks" who want to continue the present approach to Allston as a depopulated warehouse and service district.

    It sounds like one of the "doves" wrote the strategic framework, while the "hawks" are performing the implementation. Maybe it's the same group, but in that case the strategic framework is just feelgood bs.

  4. wellbasically12:04 AM

    OK I did a small amount of research from the article and looked up some of the names. Here is how it looks: basically, there was a big fight more than ten years ago to decide what urban design really meant. Modernism had reigned for a long time, concentrating on spatial development, but taking a very hands-off attitude to community and commercial needs. Anyway Modernism was out of new ideas, but what was going to replace it? The upstart was something called "New Urbanism" which promoted a set of smaller-scale ideas that could loosely be described as Main Street. Harvard's design professors were seriously resistant:
    The New Urbanism and the Communitarian Trap
    (which came at New Urbanism's conservative design philosophy)

    However during a design conference in 1999, alternatives failed to mount a serious challenge:

    During a roundtable recounted in Harvard Design Magazine, the scholars exchanged ideas on great urban design:

    ... one local example of a working urban area was Central Square in Cambridge, which does not have great design but still thrives somehow.

    My conclusion from reading all of this is that if somebody knows how to enact the Allston strategic plan, they haven't really spelled it out anywhere in terms concrete enough to refer to in these debates. It is possible that Allston will make Harvard come up with answers to these issues, but it will take some change in approach by the officials on their side, especially as they have no experience doing the things that we expected from the strategic plan, and these plans often fail.

  5. Anonymous4:21 PM

    Looks like the Citgo property at Barry's corner is now up for lease...?