Upcoming zoning hearings

1240 Soliders Field Road - Change the legal occupancy from offices to offices and clinical blood laboratory and related use.

38-40 Guest Street - Development of a retail home improvement and garden center with outdoor sale of garden supplies, erect rooftop solar panels, create off street, accessory parking for three hundred and eighty-seven vehicles and accessory loading spaces.

Yes, this is the Lowe's project that we thought was dead. Here is some more info from Dan Roan in the Mayor's Office:

Lowe's is going to the ZBA because they feel that the BRA's adequacy determination does not conform to the provisions that are stated in Article 80. Basically, they're asking the ZBA to force the BRA to reissue a new adequacy determination or if the ZBA believes that Lowe's has adequately satisfied the Article 80 requirements, simply grant relief for a conditional use.


Support Stone Hearth Pizza on Western Ave

Stone Hearth Pizza would like to open a restaurant in Harvard's former CITGO station on Western Ave. Personally, I think this would be great and a nice addition to the neighborhood. But the Allston Civic Association voted to oppose this at last night's meeting.

I can't imagine that the City would deny whatever permits and approvals that Stone Hearth needs, but if you want (or don't want) this business to open in Allston you can email:

Mark.Ciommo@cityofboston.gov (A/B City Councilor)
Daniel.Roan@cityofboston.gov (A/B liasion to the Mayor)
allstonbrighton2006@googlegroups.com (community email group)

Harvard Crimson story - http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2010/10/21/stone-allston-hearth-restaurant/
Reaction at Universal Hub - http://www.universalhub.com/2010/allston-neighborhood-group-would-rather-have-aband

Date: Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 12:25 PM
Subject: support for a Stone Hearth Pizza on Western Ave
To: Mark Ciommo , Michael Galvin , Dan Roan , LicensingBoard@cityofboston.gov
Cc: allstonbrighton2006@googlegroups.com, Kevin McCluskey , jschwarz@stonehearthpizza.com

I am writing to express my strong support for the proposed Stone Hearth
Pizza at the former CITGO station at 182 Western Ave. A successful, family-oriented, locally-owned, public-serving business like Stone Hearth is what Western Ave needs to move closer to becoming the "Main Street" that Harvard, the City, and many Allston/Brighton residents have agreed would improve our community.

At the same time, I would encourage Harvard, the City, and community to do some joint planning about the future of Western Ave. What hours of operation and what mix of uses (private/institutional, retail, food, alcohol-serving, etc) are desirable? Perhaps if we could reach some agreement on these subjects then we would be more likely to agree when specific projects & tenants are proposed.

Harry Mattison

New Harvard VP for capital planning

Harvard continues to centralize its planning and budgeting with the filling of this new position. Of note for those interested in Allston is this list of priorities that does not include any in Allston. With the exception of the two HBS projects that will probably break ground in 2012, it still seems like it will be a long time before Harvard does any Allston development of significant magnitude.


But significant projects are looming: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) urgently wants to renovate undergraduate Houses (at least a $1-billion project); several Harvard Medical School and FAS departments are space-constrained, as new laboratories have been filled to deal with the Allston deferral; and Harvard School of Public Health likely requires significant investment in its multibuilding campus, now that the idea of an entirely new school complex in Allston is indefinitely deferred. Alongside these items on the wish list, the campus facilities—some 26 million square feet—require regular maintenance and updating. And in the interest of maintaining its credit rating and preventing interest costs from soaring still further, Harvard has essentially put itself on a severe diet for debt financing, so hard choices will have to be made.

Congrats to Brighton's #1 Dahlias!

Brighton's Ed Perlmutter recently won first prize at the Topsfield Fair for his beautiful flowers. You don't need to live in the 'burbs or the country to grow prize winning flowers!

University building includes first floor retail

I was in New Haven yesterday and noticed that Yale's new 87,000 sq ft Loria Center for the History of Art includes a Willoughby's Coffee on the first floor. If Harvard does at least this much to improve the public realm with its renovation of the WGBH building it would be a good step toward building the new Western Ave.

Harvard's Western Ave Entrepreneurship Opportunity

We learned yesterday that Harvard will spend $15-20 million to renovate the former WGBH building at 125 Western Ave to create a center for entrepreneurs and innovators. That's a pretty major renovation for a building that the city appraised as being worth $9M. Given the state of the Science Complex, this will be the first project that Harvard will complete on Western Ave and may be the only construction on Western Ave for several years.

So what tone will this project set for Western Ave? The North Allston Strategic Framework and subsequent planning by Harvard, the City of Boston, and A/B residents has called for Western Ave to become a pedestrian-friendly, amenity-rich, lively and vibrant boulevard. Harvard reaffirmed this goal an April 2010 interview with The Crimson:

University Executive Vice President Katharine N. Lapp, who oversees Harvard’s expansion into Allston, said she and the faculty-led work team continue to use the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s 2005 document “North Allston: Strategic Framework for Planning” as a “guidepost.”

She specifically mentioned the plan to turn Western Avenue into the “main street” of the neighborhood.

Obviously that entire transformation can't happen with one building (though at 94,000 square feet, it is not an insignificant space). But if the transformation doesn't start now and with this project, when will it start?

In terms of programming, a relevant model to consider that I mentioned back in August could be Syracuse University's Enitiative and South Side Innovation Center (SSIC) programs. One interesting requirement that shows their local focus is that SSIC requires that entrepreneurs must be committed to business development on the South Side and neighboring communities. I wouldn't expect Harvard to require its innovators to develop businesses in Allston, but finding ways to encourage that sure would be a nice way to help revive our local economy and quality of life.

Another interesting program is the Syracuse Community Test Kitchen, a collaboration that includes Syracuse's Whitman School of Management. Considering the many restaurants in Allston and the challenges faced by these small business owners, here is a program that could have real relevance to our neighborhood too.

The Community Test Kitchen will support new and existing food entrepreneurs with training and guidance to commercialize home recipes. New Entrepreneurs will receive training in the areas of commercialization; from the development process of formulating scratch recipes into full scale-up production formulas, marketing, sales, and distribution. Existing Small Business Food Entrepreneurs in need of growing their business to the next level of profitability will be offered through a variety of business training programs and culinary product improvement Sessions.
The calendar of events at the SSIC shows the depth and extent of the community and university based programming that Syracuse is supporting.

There are other possibilities for physical changes and uses in and around the building that could set the tone for the permeable campus that Chris Gordon promised in 2007. Especially because Harvard is seeking approval for this project without any plan for its many acres of surrounding property, how Harvard chooses to move forward with this project will tell a lot about the future of this campus and community.

HBS gets $50M for Exec-Ed building

This new building will be on what is now the grass lawn between Kresge Hall and Soldiers Field Road. More interesting from a neighborhood standpoint in the renovation of 125 Western Ave (the former WGBH building) into a innovation & entrepreneurship laboratory.

Harvard Business School Receives $50 Million Gift From India's Tata Group - Bloomberg

Is Harvard proud of excluding the A/B community from today's "major announcement"?

Some may consider pride to be "the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins". But as we were reminded a couple weeks ago, Harvard is proud of the partnership that it thinks it has with the Allston/Brighton community.

A couple years ago, I wrote about how the Harvard/A-B relationship doesn't match any reasonable definition of partnership and unfortunately that truth is being reinforced by how Harvard and Boston's Mayor are announcing "major new economic development plans for the Allston-Brighton neighborhood" this afternoon.

This is not the first time that City Hall and Harvard have chosen to talk with the media about A/B before they talk to A/B residents. Just last week we learned from a Crimson story that Harvard would grant a request from A/B residents and allow them to meet with Harvard's Allston real estate consultants.

Maybe this afternoon's announcement will be great news - perhaps HBS will want to build a new building that, unlike the rest of its insular campus, does something to enliven both the HBS and A/B communities. Perhaps it will be the first step toward building the vibrant Western Ave that Harvard Professor Peter Galison and I hope to see. If it does, I will be the first to applaud.

But it is too bad that Harvard and City Hall didn't want to give any public notice about the time & place of today's press conference. Also too bad that they didn't want to give any public notice and didn't want any A/B residents to be at the event. It wouldn't be hard for Harvard and the Mayor to make this announcement at a public meeting in the evening when more A/B residents would be able to attend, ask questions, and maybe feel like we really are "partners".

Unfortunately John, I don't think Harvard yet really wants to change.
Thursday, October 14th, 2:00 PM
Mayor Menino will join Harvard Business School to announce major new economic development plans for the Allston-Brighton neighborhood.

Cambridge St to get bike lanes btw St E's & Union Sq

Bike lanes coming to one-mile stretch of Cambridge Street - Allston Brighton - Your Town - Boston.com

Crimson story on yesterday's Harvard coffee hour

Nice to learn from this article that Harvard has agreed to let their Allston consultants meet with some Allston residents. During yesterday's meeting Purcell was steadfastly non-comittal after repeated requests for some community engagement with these experts. Glad that after further consideration Harvard realized that a little conversation would be OK.

Residents Ask Purcell for Greater Role in Harvard's Allston Development Decisions The Harvard Crimson

To help the state grow, Harvard could stop landbanking

The prolific Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser wrote in yesterday's Globe about how the success of Massachusetts is being held back by a housing shortage.

Of course, Harvard could help make progress in this area by building hundreds of new units of housing on its under-utilized property in Allston and Brighton. The BRA, Harvard, and Allston/Brighton residents have all agreed to this in principle, but getting Harvard to follow through has proved elusive (the 10 units to be built on the Brookline Machine site will nice, but 10 units is pretty paltry when compared with the scope of Harvard's landbank and the extent of the need for more housing).

To grow, the state needs 40B - The Boston Globe
If our economy is so dynamic, why aren’t more people moving here?

The simple answer is that we don’t build enough homes. There is essentially a one-to-one correspondence between the population growth of a region and the amount of new construction. Massachusetts’s cold climate matters, but the tendency of people to move to warmer climes also reflects the affordable housing that comes from unfettered construction in places like Houston and Phoenix.

A college president plans to revitalize a neighborhood

Drexel's new president outlines plan to revitalize neighborhood | Philadelphia Inquirer | 10/06/2010

Drexel University's new president, John A. Fry, on Tuesday outlined a five-point plan to improve the neighborhood, including an expanded safety-patrol zone and a loan forgiveness program for employees who buy homes in the area.

In his first major address to the university community, Fry also pledged expertise and fund-raising support for the area's public elementary school and an effort to improve the business district along Lancaster Avenue.

Harvard hires consultants for Allston

I guess it is nice that Harvard seems to be doing some thinking about its Allston empire, but we could probably do without the gross exaggerations like - "the considerations of the community are a very important part of what’s been done in Allston"

To Help Plan Allston's Future, Harvard Hires Two Consulting Firms The Harvard Crimson

Harvard has hired two real estate consulting firms, Leggat McCall and McCall & Almy, to help formulate a blueprint for the University’s future development in Allston, but there remains no clear time line or concrete plan for the expansion at this point.