Leasing vacant storefronts would be a great start. But I'd agree with Emily Rooney that many of these buildings, especially after sitting vacant for years, may not be viable. And "storefronts" are only a small fraction of the vacant land, warehouses, and commercial buildings that Harvard has been landbanking that deserve a more active future.
Regarding an accelerated spending of the Science Complex "community benefits", it should be noted that:
- These benefits were intended to complement the construction of the Science Complex. The Science Complex itself would have created many benefits for this community, as some of the 2,300 direct and indirect jobs that it created would have gone to current and future A/B residents and its presence would have improved Western Ave.
Now that it appears that there will be no Science Complex in the foreseeable future, no 2,300 jobs, and no LEED Gold building improving Western Ave, whatever benefits might have made sense with the Science Complex seem inadequate as we face a future with an 8 acre concrete slab.
- Harvard and the BRA have made some choices about how to spend this money that does very little to improve the quality of life for Allston/Brighton residents.
- If we were really trying to maximize the community benefit of this money, there is no way we would spend $5.7 million on the construction and maintenance of Library Park or $500,000 on a community survey.
- The $4.5 million going into the Citywide jobs and housing trust funds will only benefit Allston and Brighton if it is spent in Allston and Brighton.
Heal the town-gown ruptures: North Allston has a hole in its heart, after being seduced and abandoned by Harvard University. Harvard’s secret predations into Allston were bad enough, but its ambitious expansion plans are now on hold because of the crash in its endowment, leaving behind boarded-up businesses and rats. Menino ought to use a little of that pent-up political capital to “encourage’’ Harvard - and all the universities bent on expansion into Boston - to keep their commitments to the neighborhoods.
Menino has sent a letter to Harvard president Drew Faust, calling on her to make sure the buildings Harvard bought up “contribute to the vitality of the community.’’ But Harvard has been slow to lease the vacant storefronts. Menino should press the university to spend its promised $25 million in community benefits sooner rather than later.