Pioneer or Oppressor?

The Globe takes a look at our quest for viable, quality-of-life enhancing uses for Harvard's vacant property in our neighborhood. Regretfully, the Harvard affiliates continue to show the "can't do" attitude that is an anathema to progress.

In Allston, Brighton, future uncertain for Harvard-owned parcels - The Boston Globe
"Pioneers get shot down by arrows," said Paul Conforti, co-owner of Finale and Harvard Business School MBA ’97.
If Paul isn't comfortable being a pioneer in this situation, that is certainly his right. His primary commitment probably is, and should be, to be to his employees and investors. He didn't help develop the North Allston Strategic Framework, Harvard did.

And because Harvard is our majority commercial landowner and pledged to create an "expansion of community-serving retail and other services, concentrated to form a walkable, traditional Main Street in the heart of North Allston," it is Harvard's obligation to be the pioneer or find reasonable ways to help other pioneer while protecting them from the arrows of financial risk, such as basing rent on a percentage of revenue or using Harvard's massive purchasing power to offset the unknown demand that would otherwise exist.

The "pioneer" analogy is an interesting one. Last year I compared Harvard's Allston expansion to the Louisiana Purchase, and moving into Allston will obviously require Harvard to make some investments. So Harvard's Lauren Marshall is absolutely right that Harvard's 450,000 sq ft building on Lincoln St requires "a lot of investment. It's currently not in condition to lease."

But that building wasn't in a condition to lease 2+ years ago when Harvard bought it at a 90% discount from the $120 million that it cost to build it. So either Harvard will make the investment that it has always known would be needed so the building can be leased, or it is holding back our neighborhood by holding onto an unusable property with a lot of potential that it has no intention to use in the foreseeable future.


  1. Anonymous1:13 PM

    Would they lease land to the city to have 2 hour parking lots like on lower Moody Street in Waltham?

  2. Anonymous10:16 PM

    Now there's an idea. When they pave over the hole until there is more money to finish it, they should make it an all day paking lot for their football games and it would certainly get the cars off of North Harvard Street, for a while anyways.

  3. Anonymous1:29 PM

    I'm thinking of a city lot. Harvard will not allow public parking on their land because of liability I'm sure. Come up with an easement of small spaces to the city, even off the main drag... I recommend everybody go to Moody St to see what I'm talking about, also Central Square in Cambridge has a good lot that's not right on the street.

    When you drive to a place it's good to know you have the option of the back lot even if it's not big enough for every car that will ever go there (like a mall lot would have to be).

    I worked on Moody St for a while, I think these lots made the difference between upper and lower Moody. Commerce-wise, upper was crappy and lower not upscale but pretty good.

  4. Harry thanks for organizing this tour and for your dedication to this part of Allston. I live in Brighton but shop at Brighton Mills. I feel very, very sad for this neighborhood- especially everytime I drive to the grocery store. Years ago this was a VIBRANT SHOPPING PLAZA!! And now Boston Volkswagon is in Watertown? Ridiculous. This 5 acre hole is so incredibly shameful. THIS IS SHAMEFUL WHAT IS GOING ON - AND IT IS OUR PAID POLITICIAN(S) and BRA(S) JOB TO FIX IT!!!!!! Thanks for all you're doing in the name of civic duty Harry - I really do hope our elected's and appointed's will follow, but I am losing hope!!!!!!!!! The art idea is a joke by the way. What a cop out. We need COMMERCE in these buildings, with art serving as a backdrop. Harvard can decorate all they want but without BUSINESSES that are OPEN to the PUBLIC this area of our beloved city will just be a pretty wasteland.

  5. Anonymous12:49 PM

    Hi -

    Has the Allston community posted a list of things that they would like to see in Harvard's developments? Suggestions, requests, etc.? If so could you point a link to where they are?

    Thanks :)

  6. The North Allston Strategic Framework is the best compilation of what the community would like to see in Harvard's development.