City gets stimulus $ for Cambridge St

City awarded $40m for repair of roads from stimulus funds - The Boston Globe
The city will get $21 million to resurface significant stretches of at least a half-dozen deteriorating roads that serve the highway network. The work will include Blue Hill Avenue, Columbia Road, and Allston-Brighton's Cambridge Street, Gillooly said. The resurfacing work will be paired with improvements to make pedestrian ways accessible to people with disabilities

Menino is gravely disappointed

Why do newspapers get a copy of the letter from Menino to Faust before the residents of Allston and Brighton?

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Menino Blasts Allston Slowdown

Regarding the content of the letter, Menino states that "the University may not make unilateral decisions." This is a new concept after watching Harvard act unilaterally for the last several years. On Monday night Harvard employees defended Harvard's intention to make unilateral decisions. It would be great if now the Mayor's Office and BRA start advocating for collaboration and joint decision-making.

But will we move from unilateral to bilateral or trilateral?

The Mayor's letter tells Harvard to meet with BRA staff to discuss the Science Complex and vacant property, but it doesn't explain what, if any, role he sees for the people who live here. We need a process that recognizes all stakeholders - City, Harvard, and community.

Harvard Menino Ltr to Faust

Comments on this blog

The tone of comments on this blog has gone downhill recently. If you have something civil and constructive to contribute I look forward to reading your comments on this blog. If you don't have anything nice to write, please don't waste our time writing it. Rude and nasty comments will be promptly deleted.

Support A/B with a letter to the Globe

The Globe has written a lot in the last week about Harvard's broken promises and vacant buildings littering our neighborhood. Please consider writing a Letter to the Editor sharing your thoughts. City Hall needs to know that that the voters and taxpayers of Allston and Brighton expect our elected officials to use the full extent of their power to protect and improve our quality of life.

The City has made considerable investments in neighborhoods such as Grove Hall in Roxbury. Meanwhile, we were told over and over that we would benefit from a Harvard-led renaissance. Now that Harvard is talking about spending its money elsewhere, it is time for the City to step up. This could be as simple as finally building sidewalks on Everett St or as drastic as using eminent domain to take property that Harvard refuses to develop.

So whether your letter is 25 words or 150 words, please write. The more letters they get, the more likely they are to publish some of them.

Allston: The State of Play in 2009

Perspective, Harvard's liberal monthly, interviews me in its current issue - Allston: The State of Play in 2009

Harvard's stake in Allston - coverage in today's Globe

Harvard's stake in Allston - A Globe editorial encourages Harvard to do some "deep thinking about engaging its neighbors"

"The university has a spotty record for leasing the retail and industrial spaces that it bought so eagerly, and stealthily, in the late 1990s. It might suit the university's long-term strategy to sit on empty or underutilized properties for 50 or 100 years. But it doesn't suit the city."

Also in today's Globe we hear from Harvard President Drew Faust...

Faust said the university is committed to renting out or sprucing up its vacant lots and buildings. "We certainly recognize that sentiment," Faust said.
She acknowledged that Harvard's slowdown in development across the Charles River should be accompanied by new efforts to make university-owned properties more attractive and useful to the community.

...and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on Harvard's need to be a better neighbor
"He plans to send Faust a letter today, specifying conditions that he said would protect and advance the interests of both the university and Allston.
"We want to insure . . . that the actions by Harvard in the community are universally understood to be responsible actions of an institutional partner committed to the community, and not a series of ill-considered, opportunistic pursuits precipitated by the weakened economy," the letter says.
Menino is asking Harvard for a timeline for completing community improvements in Allston and a report on the condition of its Allston properties, along with plans to keep them in use while development is delayed.
"There's lots of abandoned property over there," Menino said in a phone interview yesterday. "What is Harvard's commitment to the neighborhood?""

Boston Magazine blog chimes in on Harvard & Allston

Harvard’s Allston COO - $587,172 in 2007 Boston Daily

Weekly Dig gives Harvard a -1

Here's how the Weekly Dig sums up Harvard's excellent Allston adventure:
"After starting a few major construction projects, purchasing and closing a mall's worth of small business, and releasing rats and a cloud of poisonous gas into the air, Harvard University has decided to slow down and possibly halt their massive development project in Allston. Thanks for not destroying the whole neighborhood, but do you mind cleaning up before you leave?"

Science Complex photos and where the Allston $ went

There are a few different meanings for "In the Hole", the brief story in the new edition of Harvard Magazine about the Science Complex. There isn't much new news in it (the article was written a few weeks ago) but the photos of the construction site are pretty amazing.

In a related story, Harvard Magazine explains why Harvard will have much less money for Allston activities:
Harvard moved promptly to borrow $2.5 billion. Public reports suggest the University will incur annual interest costs on this debt (before principal payments) of $128 million to $138 million, offset in part by the repayment of existing shorter-term debt. That substantial expense may be defrayed by using the “strategic infrastructure fund,” an administrative assessment on endowment capital now designated to offset costs for Allston campus development.

TAB story from last night's meeting

Neighbors push Harvard to lease vacant Allston properties - Allston/Brighton TAB

"Residents are pushing Harvard to find short-term tenants for its vacant properties in Allston as soon as possible and to implement cost-effective community benefits for the neighborhood. The demands came following Harvard’s announcement that economic realities would force it to slow down its development in Allston.

Neighbors packed into the Honan-Allston Library Monday night, Feb. 23 to voice concerns over the slowdown.

For nearly two hours, Chris Gordon, chief operating officer of the Allston Development Group, defended the university’s decision to slow down the construction of the First Science Complex because of the recent 30 percent decline in Harvard’s endowment."

Adrian Walker - A hole in Allston is a hole in the city

Stalled Allston project is an emptiness money can fix - The Boston Globe

If you recall, Allston never asked to be saved by its neighbor across the Charles River. Harvard bought up the property through a third party in the 1990s, then began a campaign to soothe the feelings of sandbagged residents.

...what has happened to Allston is jarring. The old Allston was fading away, and the new one is stuck on the drawing board. It is both less than it was and far less than has been promised.

News coverage from last night's Harvard meeting

Community Reacts To Slowed Harvard University Allston Project - WCVB

Residents Angry Over Stalled Harvard Projects - WBZ

Allston residents blast Harvard over slowed pace of expansion - The Boston Globe

The largely hostile crowd accused Harvard of sucking the life out of a neighborhood now littered with empty university-owned storefronts, and implored the school to impose a moratorium on buying property until it completes a state-of-the-art science complex originally slated to open in 2011.

"You shouldn't be able to land-bank in our city until you develop what you currently own," said mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty, to audience applause.

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Allston Dwellers Fault Harvard

Residents erupted in anger at the Harvard Allston Task Force meeting last night as they responded to Harvard’s recent announcement to slow construction of its science complex. The criticism centered largely around the ambiguity surrounding planned uses for the University’s currently vacant properties.

The heated discussion that ensued involved residents both on and off the task force faulting Harvard for neglecting to seek community input in choosing tenants for its vacant holdings.

Community members clamored for Harvard to discontinue its buying of properties until the science complex is complete, but Christopher M. Gordon—chief operating officer for Harvard’s Allston Development Group—refused to make a commitment.

St. Elizabeth's president leaving after 2.5 years

St. Elizabeth's president is leaving post at hospital - The Boston Globe
Christopher M. O'Connor, the president of Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, is leaving the hospital immediately to pursue other opportunities, according to a spokeswoman for the six-hospital chain.

O'Connor, 38, who was head of the flagship hospital of Caritas Christi Health Care for 2 1/2 years, will continue in a limited consulting role at the Brighton institution. His photo and greeting to visitors were still on the St. Elizabeth's website late yesterday afternoon.

What Harvard pays to run its Allston project

At some universities, the football coach is the highest paid employee. Elsewhere it is a medical school professor or the college president. At Harvard?

The highest paid Harvard employee listed was Christopher Gordon, the chief operating officer of the Allston Development Group, which manages the school’s expansion into the Allston neighborhood. He was paid $587,172.

Also reported on Harvard's 2006 1099 form was $17.5 million paid to Behnisch Studio East Inc, the architect hired to design the Science Complex.

Today in the news

The editorial board of the Harvard Crimson writes that the Allston slowdown is "ill-advised" and that "Even in the current environment, these priorities of the school should not have been sacrificed."

The Globe reports on Harvard's landbanking and emptying of Allston.

Why Harvard really hasn't built and Allston art building (and a few other projects)

Some people are looking at Harvard's Allston slowdown and wondering why Harvard hasn't already built more than a hole for the Science Complex. For years, Harvard has suggested that major new museums will someday be built in Allston, but none of those ideas are close to reality today.

What happened to the art building originally proposed by Harvard in 2006? In November 2007, Harvard planners and HUAM director Thomas Lentz spoke with Boston Globe arts reporter Geoff Edgers about their decision to postpone construction of a building in Allston.

The Dow was over 13,000 back then, almost twice its current value, so one could think that money wouldn't have been a limitation for Harvard's ambitions. But financial limitations came into play more than once as Harvard's plans changed.

As Faust's Arts Task Force report makes clear, a year later Harvard is still working on answering the "big thorny questions" that Lentz mentioned to the Globe.

In February 2006, the university disclosed plans to renovate a former bank and add a second building on an Allston site 2.5 miles from the Harvard campus, at 1380 Soldiers Field Road. This site would temporarily house staff, store materials, and serve as a satellite museum while work took place on Quincy Street. Then in December, the university decided to change course because the Soldiers Field Road project was considered too expensive for a temporary home.

When asked whether the projects' costs were a factor in the delay, Spiegelman said, "The decision was driven more by the timing and the planning. But obviously the university is cost-conscious of everything we're doing."

Cost, Lentz acknowledges, is an issue with the Allston project. So are proposals for a range of other cultural facilities in Harvard's expanded Allston campus.

"I think a wider, overriding concern is how it is all going to work in Allston? How do the art museums relate to performing arts facilities or theater facilities or music facilities?" Lentz said. "Those are all big, thorny questions to grapple with."

So even though Harvard seemed publicly certain in its proposals to request zoning approval from the City of Boston in 2006, the Globe story shows that internally the decisions were far from final. This is consistent with Harvard's history of proposing projects that often end up not materializing.

Table 2-5 (page 2-13) of Harvard's 2006 IMP Amendment lists projects that Harvard proposed in its 1997 IMP. Of 8 projects that were proposed, 3 were not completed and not scheduled:

  • Long-Range Executive Education Housing, 50-70,000 square feet
  • Cotting Hall renovation, 15,000 square feet
  • Storage & Locker Room Facilities, 10-15,000 square feet

That these projects were left on the drawing board is not a complaint but a recognition of the reality that plans made by Harvard (or any other large, complex organization) are highly subject to change for internal and external reasons. These three projects from the 1997 IMP weren't dropped because of vigorous community opposition. I doubt that more than a few people in the community knew about them or would have cared if they did know.

Harvard's proposals for the art building, the Science Complex, and many projects before them changed significantly after first being proposed. For an outsider to try to find a simplistic and singular explanation for these changes is a tea-leaf reading exercise at best.

How Allston planning hit Harvard's endowment

Endowment Director Is on Harvard’s Hot Seat -
One she might not have anticipated was the intense pressure caused by the Allston expansion, according to one person with knowledge of the endowment. Several years ago, the university had envisioned an ambitious capital expansion program stretching for more than a decade. Lawrence H. Summers, then Harvard’s president, had raised the possibility of locking in interest rates that appeared to be at historic lows, a plan the university adopted, said several people familiar with the endowment.

All went well at first. But in the second half of last year, interest rates plummeted, and Harvard turned to the endowment to meet hefty collateral calls, which could rise to $1 billion if rates remain weak, according to a person with knowledge of the university. According to a statement Friday from James R. Rothenberg, treasurer of the university, Harvard has taken a series of steps to reduce the risk associated with the transaction.

Harvard's land + MIT's money

As Harvard slows down construction in Allston, MIT wants to build 400,000 square feet of office/lab space with ground-floor retail to replace the parking lot at 650 Main Street in Cambridge (just 1.5 miles from Harvard's hole in the ground). Harvard and MIT know how to collaborate on life sciences - they have been doing it for years at the Broad Institute.

If Cambridge neighbors don't want this new MIT building and Harvard alone can't afford to finish construction of the Science Complex, maybe Harvard and MIT could figure out a way to join forces to complete and occupy the Science Complex and everyone wins.

Now for some good news

Mahoney's Garden Center in Brighton expands - Allston/Brighton TAB

More on Harvard's Allston slowdown

Harvard slowing Allston expansion, Faust announces - The Boston Globe

Harvard slows Allston expansion -

Harvard Slows, Possibly To Halt, Project Plans In Allston (WBUR)

Faust: University Will Slow Pace of Construction in Allston Harvard Magazine

Allston update letter from Drew Faust


Harvard will finish the foundation and below-ground portions of the Science Complex this year. They will review the design of the four-building complex and consider modifications to the design to reduce cost. After the foundation is complete, Harvard may decide to stop construction.

Harvard's long-term Allston planning will continue but at a slower pace. Harvard will develop plans for interim improvements to existing property.

Allston update letter - Office of the President - Harvard University

Your pet could be famous (and well-trained)

Boston Casting holding open call for Animal Planet show

On Saturday, Feb. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Boston Casting, 129 Braintree St., Allston, will hold an open call for dog owners who want their pets on an Animal Planet television show.

This Animal Planet TV show wants to help you train your dog to do something spectacular right now! We’re not talking obedience training here. We’re talking about turning your dog into a frisbee catching, trick-doing, dead playing, back flipping, hand standing machine.

Don’t worry, your pet does not need to be professionally trained, just obedient.

If you don’t have a dog, but instead an amazing cat, bird, or heck...even a giraffe, you still qualify!

Please DO NOT bring your dog to the open call. You will be turned away. Instead, please bring pictures or videos (on DVD) of your amazing pets! If you are unable to attend but wish to be considered, e-mail photos of you with your pup at: more information, call Aaron Kahl at 617-680-6038 or e-mail

Join Team A/B for the Run of the Charles canoe race

Are you ready to get outside and enjoy spring when it arrives?

Sunday, April 26, is the 27th annual Run of the Charles canoe race, the largest canoe race in North America. It would be great to enter an Allston/Brighton team of 10 people (2 paddlers for each of 5 legs) in the relay race. After the race, which ends at Herter Park in Brighton, there is a festival with live music and refreshments.

Canoeing skill is not mandatory, but wanting to meet and have fun with your neighbors is! Last year there were 110 teams in the relay race from a wide range of Boston-area businesses, government agencies, and others. If a bunch of architects, lawyers, and engineers can do it, so can we!

A few people have already signed up, so we need another half-dozen to put together a team. The early-registration deadline is Thursday, so please email me if you are interested.

Body found in Allston Charles River

Body found in Charles River NECN
(NECN: Boston, Mass.) - A body has been discovered in the Charles River in the area of the Eliot Bridge. Massachusetts State Troopers assigned to the Brighton barracks observed the body after a jogger walked in and reported it shortly before 1pm this afternoon.
Signs of trauma or foul play were not immediately detected, though the state of decomposition could have hindered them.
More details are expected to be released, including gender and approximate age, after an autopsy tomorrow.

Allston Civic Association agenda for Feb 18

  • New Balance: Re-use of building located at the base of the Everett St. Bridge.
  • Sports Depot: Cambridge/Franklin Sts. Extension of hours until 2:00A.M.
  • Sheesha Lounge: Cambridge St. Smoking Bar seeking extension of hours.
  • Suvarnabhumi Kiri, 90 – 92 Harvard Ave. Request to extend hours until 2:00A.M.

Meeting is Wednesay at 6:30 at the Honan Library

Havard School of Public Health prepares to stay put

The Harvard School of Public Health has frequently been mentioned for several years as a leading candidate to relocate to Harvard's future Allston campus. But as Harvard's near- to mid-term plans dissipate, HSPH is growing deeper roots in the Longwood area. HSPH recently began leasing a 39,000 sq ft building formerly used as an elementary school.

“With the economic environment making the pace of Allston less certain, we did not feel as though we could pass up the opportunity to lease a significant amount of space so close to our main campus,” HSPH Dean Julio Frenk wrote in a letter to the HSPH community.

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Cramped Spaces Burden HSPH

BPS new 5 zone proposal

Boston Public Schools are proposing to modify the current zone scheme used for K-8 school assignment. A/B would move from the North Zone (which spans from Brighton to East Boston) to a new "Zone 2" exclusively for A/B. The draft map and demographic information is online here.

Tom Palmer on Enrique Penalosa

Tom Palmer writes today about the recent visit to Boston by Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, Colombia. Penalosa's ideas about urban quality of life resonate for me and present important questions and goals for the future of our neighborhood and the impact of development by Harvard, Charlesview, and others:
Western civilization prevailed because of its emphasis on equality, Penalosa said. But what constitutes equality in today market economy?
Two things:
-- Public good prevails over private interest.
-- Equality of quality of life (as opposed to income equality).
Among his principles to achieve those goals, "if you really have democracy at work":
-- Waterfronts should never be private.
-- Road space should go first to public transport, and if any space is left over to private cars.

A good city is "where people want to be out of their homes," in public space. And shopping malls don't qualify under Penalosa's definition of happiness, though he suggested they're better than no public space at all.

Penalosa said that beyond food and sleep and security -- the basics -- people need: to walk, be with people, have contact with nature, to play, and "not to feel inferior."

His vision of an advanced society, as opposed to a backward society, is one where high- and low-income people meet in all kinds of circumstances. Where the physical space is good for children, the elderly, and handicapped. (More than 200,000 children a year are killed by cars worldwide, he said.)

"A good city is not one with great highways, but one where a child on a bicycle can go safely everywhere."

Upcoming zoning hearings

86-88 Colborne Road
Confirm the legal occupancy as a two-family dwelling and legalize the extension of living space into the basement and attic area. Floor area ratio excessive. Height excessive (there is a 2 ½ story height limit in this zoning district proposed renovations create a 3 story building.)

CVS Pharmacy - 207 Market Street
Change the legal occupancy from sales to retail sales, a pharmacy with a drive-thru

Where's the hole?

I don't know if the City is using it as a reference, but has a map of potholes where you can note the positions of potholes in A/B and beyond.

Harvard confims Allston slowdown

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: University Braces for More Cuts

University officials advanced budget cutting measures at yesterday’s meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, suggesting a likely slowdown in Allston construction and preparing to distribute long-awaited guidance for budget reductions to departments and centers later this month.

“Although it is clear that Allston is Harvard’s ultimate future, that future is going to be arriving a lot more slowly than we’d thought,” she said.

Faust’s comment was the first public suggestion that construction in Allston will slow due to the financial crisis.

The Allston project has become a point of contention in recent months due to its hefty price tag and long-term nature, which some argue should make it subordinate to more immediate expenditures.

Faust said the administration hopes to make decisions “soon” regarding the specific timeline for Allston.

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Faust Hopeful at Faculty Meeting

Though the University may not face the perils of disease or warfare, wrangling with a fiscal crisis may pose comparable difficulties, said Faust, a specialist in the history of the antebellum South.

“I think of Harvard living through all kinds of crises, ranging from the Revolution to the Civil War to the small pox epidemics,” Faust mused. “I think this moment ranks up there in Harvard’s historical challenges.”

Kids "Introduction to Sportscasting Clinic" next week in Allston

The Media Performance Institute on Braintree Street in Allston is offering an afternoon class next week during school vacation for kids 10-15 interested in TV and sports broadcasting.

Socrates Sculpture Park

Wondering how Harvard's empty North Allston/North Brighton land can be put to some use without spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on construction? Now that it seems that the chance of new development is receding into the distant future, some creativity seems to be in order.
One possibility would be something like the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, NY (map).

Twenty five years ago it was an abandonded landfill. Today it is home to a variety of public art installations, sort of like an urban version of the DeCordova. They host free Wednesday evening outdoor movie showings and art performances during the summer and a great variety of classes and special activities to promote fitness (yoga, pilates, tai chi) and arts and crafts workshops.

Of course all that doesn't come for free, and Soctrates' expenses in 2006 were $864,000. Certainly here in Allston we could start with much smaller. Regardless of scale, outdoor arts, events, and workshops open to all and of interest to a wide variety of people could be great.

"Socrates Sculpture Park is the only site in the New York Metropolitan area specifically dedicated to providing artists with opportunities to create and exhibit large-scale work in a unique environment that encourages strong interaction between artists, artworks and the public. The Park's existence is based on the belief that reclamation, revitalization and creative expression are essential to the survival, humanity and improvement of our urban environment."

Partnership Fund advisory committee named

The BRA announced last night the members of the committee that will give input to the use of the "partnership fund" that was established by Harvard last year as part of the Science Complex review process. They are:

Paul Berkeley
John Bruno
Dan Daly
John Eskew
Sister Rena Foley
Wayne McKenzie
Ray Mellone
Karen Smith

Applications should be distributed and and grant decisions made this spring.

Rangoli Closing Today

Rangoli in Allston Is Closing Today Boston Restaurant Talk

Throughout the years I've enjoyed many meals at Rangoli and many others have too. I'll be sorry to see it go and hope its is replaced by something of comparable quality.

15 years of aerial history

There's a new version of Google Earth! One of the cool new features is the addition of historical imagery that shows how our world has changed. The oldest images for our neighborhood are from 1995, and one of the largest changes visible from above since then was the demolition of the factories and development of the Brighton Mills shopping center shown below.

Harvard considers halting Science Complex construction

In November, The Crimson reported that "Though construction for the first science building in Allston, which began this spring, was slated to near completion in July 2011, it is unclear whether this date will be postponed as the University assesses current spending."

Today's edition of The Crimson informs us that Harvard administrators are moving forward with contingency plans in case construction of the Western Ave Science Complex is halted. Since the start of public discussion of the Science Complex, the star tenant for the buildings was to be The Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the immense value of their work was the primary rationale for Harvard's urgency during the City of Boston's Article 80 review and Harvard's request for the Phase One Waiver that was granted by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office.

"Harvard provost Steven E. Hyman has asked faculty to consider the possibility of housing the department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology in existing University facilities in Cambridge...

the new plan would divert funds originally intended for the science complex in Allston to renovate Fairchild (map) for its new residents...

the Molecular and Cellular Biology department has been told to plan for an evacuation of Fairchild in six to twelve months, suggesting that the University will soon release a more definitive timeline for construction projects in Allston.

“It has to be clear that this is a ‘Plan B’ in case the Allston campus Science 1 building won’t be built or is delayed,” MCB department chair Catherine Dulac said."

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Move to Allston Uncertain for Stem Cell Department