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.
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.