Allston Village Main Streets Annual Meeting

Want to find out what AVMS has been up to for the last year? Have ideas for the future? Come to the Allston Village Main Streets Annual Meeting and enjoy tasty free eats from Uno's!

Wednesday, March 3
Uno Chicago Grill - 1230 Comm Ave
Announcements, New Board Members, New Businesses
Free refreshments by Uno Chicago Grill.

Some New Balance thoughts

To start at a high level, I think New Balance presented a great vision last night for redevelopment for Guest Street between Market Street and Everett Street. Turning that area into a more lively, interesting, and active area would be great. Having New Balance become more of a neighbor with a greater investment in our neighborhood can only be a good thing. Attracting mutually beneficial infrastructure improvements like a commuter rail stop would also be great.

Long term, New Balance presented a lot of big ideas including:
  • New office space for New Balance
  • A 125-room hotel
  • A 2 acre park
  • A commuter rail stop
  • New on and off ramps connecting to the Mass Pike
  • An athletic facility for sports like indoor soccer and lacrosse
  • An ice skating facility with two separate skating surfaces (there was some discussion about how the Skating Club of Boston would like to move from their current site on Western Ave (so they could sell it to Harvard??) but want a new facility with 3 ice surfaces)
  • 600 construction and 3,000 permanent jobs

Obviously the timing and funding of many of these pieces is highly uncertain. The only piece that New Balance seems to be somewhat able to do in the near future are the new office building and park.

As the devil is in the details, I was most concerned with their ideas for access to the Pike. Some kind of ramp connecting Lincoln Street and the Pike seems highly questionable, and I am inclined to agree with other neighbors who commented last night that adding new ramps and overpasses could exacerbate the "scar" that the Pike already creates across our neighborhood. As someone who lives North of the Pike, I wonder about a plan that seems to create positive new development south of the Pike and supports it by building more highway-related roads on the north side of the Pike.

Tim McHale noted at the meeting last night our community's desire for a more residential stability and more homeownership, and the retail/office/residential mix of the future phases is an important question, but maybe one that doesn't need to be fully answered now because these future phases are not exactly right around the corner.

If New Balance does build a new office building, I hope that its will be more public and urban. The current New Balance complex is 535,000 sq ft of office space with 30,000 sq ft of retail below the parking garage (the Bally gym and New Balance outlet). But on the north side of Guest Street, the large office buildings are pushed back from the sidewalk and the first floor offers no public use. The large cafeteria is upstairs on the 2nd floor, and the building and Guest Street would, in my opinion, would have been better served by public restaurants and other retail on the ground floor instead of the office-park type building that was built.

I also learned last night that it was New Balance who renovated the charming old factory building at 38 Everett Street that is now the Warrior & Brine Outlet Store for lacrosse, soccer and hockey equipment.

Considering all the unknowns, I'd summarize my thoughts that more New Balance in our community is a good thing. If NB has office buildings at either end of Guest Street they will be pretty motivated to improve the area around and between their buildings.

Other coverage from last night's meeting from the Globe, Herald, and Mike Pahre

Stay dry at the ABNNF potluck tonight

Get out of the rain and come to the Gardner school tonight at 6 to meet neighbors, have a good time, and eat some great food!

Harvard's PEAR & Universities in Partnership

A friend of a friend recently introduced me a Harvard Medical School program called PEAR - The Program in Education, Afterschool, and Resiliency. PEAR does great research and applied work to help children have more productive and enriching lives. Periodically they conduct sessions on the web where experts present information about their work and viewers can ask questions through a text chat.

On February 2 PEAR ran a webinar titled "Universities in Partnership: Strategies for Education, Youth Development, and Community Renewal" and you can watch a replay of it here.

Presenters included Ira Harkavy from University of Pennsylvania and a some of the key concepts discussed were:
  • The deep, extensive, and substantive level of engagement that universities and communities can have
  • The difficulty of growing up in urban environment caused by factors including crime, violence, poverty, and high dropout rates
  • The challenge to marshal all of the potential resources to make a difference
  • A decade ago it was radical to think of a university/community/school partnership, now they are much more common
  • The concept of a "democratic partnership" with a democratic and civic emphasis that works with a egalitarian, transparent, and and collegial process

Google's relationship with Mountain View

Ford / Detroit
Google / Mountain View, CA
Harvard / Allston

Three huge corporations with immense power to control the destiny of their surrounding communities. This story in today's Times raises questions relevant in Allston and Mountain View about corporations turning inward & outward, community engagement, and creating a community feeling beyond the office and campus walls.

Google and Mountain View Recast Company-Town Model -

“The main reason Ford put money into the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is to make it plausible to recruit executives to Detroit,” Professor Davis said. “It was a human-resources move as much as it was philanthropic.”

But the technology companies that grew amid the striking scenery and balmy weather of the Bay Area have not felt the same imperative. As they grew, they turned inward, putting their resources into employee perks like stock options and free lunches.

“Generally speaking, the high-tech companies in Silicon Valley are not as engaged in contributing to their local communities,” said Larry Stone, the Santa Clara County tax assessor.

The most controversial Google plan so far is its possible expansion into the North Bayshore area, including residential towers of up to five stories. These would increase population density, and possibly traffic, in an area that has little of either. The proposal’s viability, in turn, rests in part on the long-term planning decisions now before the City Council.

Sean Safford, a professor who studies organizations and markets at the University of Chicago, noted that Google was replicating traditional company-town practices by placing housing for its employees near its headquarters.

“It will be so interesting to see how much of their human resources strategy is about creating a community feeling that goes beyond the offices,” Mr. Safford said. “Sometimes when you’re competing for workers and prominence, there’s a need to stick your chest out and say, ‘We’re the big dogs in town.’ ”

Fund libraries with public, not private funds

Maybe in a crisis the Boston Public Library system needs an emergency bailout from the private sector. But that should not be the long-term solution to funding the libraries. A public library system cannot be subject to the whims of private donations and the generosity of a Liberty Mutual or Fidelity that may be here one year and gone the next. This is especially for libraries which have large fixed costs (buildings, staffing, etc.) that cannot be easily expanded and contracted on a yearly basis.

Boston needs to figure out how to create a sufficient and dependable revenue stream to fund our libraries and keep them open and accessible to all residents of Boston.

In crisis, Boston libraries need better board, more private funds - The Boston Globe

Decker resolution on Western Ave/River St bridge projects

Cambridge City Councilor and State Senate candidate Marjorie Decker has sponsored the following council order asking MassDOT and other agencies to work with Cambridge and Boston residents and to include planning for access to the river and the surrounding parkland.

We need a State Senator who will get involved in issues like this, and I will contact DOT to find out which candidates submitted comments on this project.

WHEREAS: It has come to the attention of this City Council that there is a
construction project on the bridges at both Western Avenue and River Street that
will affect the residents in both Cambridge and Boston; and

WHEREAS: There are various local and state agencies involved in the project
and the residents of the surrounding areas are entitled to meet with any and all
of those agencies to discuss the project and stay informed; now therefore be

ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report all steps
the city is taking to ensure resident and city input is heard at the outset of
this project and throughout; and be it further

ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report what
additional steps are being made to comprehensively address, in addition to the
bridge renovations, what is being done to the pedestrian and bicycle access ways
and to the parklands surrounding the river; and be it further

ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report a schedule
of any and all of the opportunities for meetings with the various state agencies
involved in this project; and be it further

ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to
the City Council on this matter.

BRA approves 20 units on Greylock Rd

Banker & Tradesman

"The project, a condominium complex that will produce 20 units, two of which will be designated as affordable housing, and will be located at 17-23 Greylock Road in Allston."

Lowe’s still wants Brighton site

Sure will be interesting to see how this progresses. Commeters at the Globe site seem particularly excited because Lowe's may be ready to build now, but we have no idea how much of the New Balance proposal is also ready to build in the short term. To me it is hard to find much to be excited about in a big, ugly, duplicative home-improvement warehouse.

Lowe’s to try again for Hub store, but New Balance also has plans for Brighton site - The Boston Globe

Allston Civic Association meeting agenda

February 17 @ 6:30P.M. Honan Allston Library

The proponent of a large Billboard on Camb/Lincoln St will return to show a scaled drawing of the board in relationship to the building on Camb. St.

Quint Ave. A proposal to create parking next to the church.

Parking Discussion: Allston/Brighton has been targeted by cab companies and commercial vehicle owners as a place to store their vehicles overnight. Many leave their personal vehicles in the same spot during the day so our streets are being used 24 hours a day to accommodate the parking needs of businesses that are located outside of our town, and outside of our city. A discussion about where this is happening and what can be done about it will be held.

You are invited to the ABNNF potluck dinner

The Allston Brighton North Neighbors Forum (ABNNF) invites all neighbors to a community potluck dinner in the Gardner School auditorium (30 Athol St) on Thursday, February 25 at 6:00.

Please join us for this fun and casual opportunity to meet new friends and see familiar faces in a social setting.

As a general guideline, plan to bring food according to your last name:
A-F: Drinks
G-M: Appetizer/Salad
N-S: Main Dish
T-Z: Dessert

Or bring anything you'd like - all contributions are welcome. If you know you're coming and/or bringing something, please RSVP to

Bridge comments

Here are the comments that I sent to the Mass Department of Transportation regarding last week's River Street & Western Ave bridge meeting. If you have ideas for this important project, you can send then to
Western Ave River St Bridge Comments - Harry Mattison

New Balance meeting postponed

New Balance Guest Street meeting snowed out : Allston Brighton Tab Blog

Like everything else in Boston, this meeting is not happening because of the impending snow.
New date is 2/24 @ 6:30.

No School on Wednesday

The City's Snow Information and Advisory Program - City of Boston

Update: 2/9/10, 10:00pm
Boston Public Schools has announced a school closing for Wednesday, February 10. The City of Boston has declared a snow emergency, effective 8:00am Wednesday. A parking ban will be in effect.

Free H1N1 shots

At the Gardner School until 5:00 today

View from the Western Ave bridge

I was sitting in traffic yesterday on the Western Ave bridge and took this photo of the "view" such as it is. We should definitely do better when rebuilding it.

Hole in Allston letter to the Editor

Colleen McGuire is getting frustrated and write about it to the Globe - Hole in Allston - The Boston Globe

For more beautiful bridges

There are many important subjects to consider after Wednesday's meeting on the reconstruction of the Western Ave and River St bridges. (The presentation from the meeting can be downloaded here). Safe bridges that are accessible and accommodating for transportation and recreation are a must. For this post, I'd like to consider how the bridges look, what people can see from them, and how to make pedestrians safer.

According to the Charles River Master Plan, these bridges were the subject of a 1923 design competition to create bridges that would be "worthy expressions of the best that a cultured community can create." While I appreciate the graceful arches of the bridges when they are viewed from a distance, it is hard to find anything beautiful about the bridges when one is on the bridge.

With this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild and reconsider these bridges, it seems appropriate to rethink both how the bridges look and function. The bridges won't be rebuilt entirely as part of this project, but there will be extensive reconstruction and some portions of the bridges will be completely rebuilt.

One possibility is to add a barrier between the roadway and the sidewalk. This would protect pedestrians by preventing cars in an accident from ending up on the sidewalk. It would also make it possible to use a railing instead of a wall between the sidewalk and the water, as is done on the Mass Ave Bridge a couple miles away. Children who are not tall enough to see over the existing wall would particularly enjoy the view through the railing, especially when watching rowers and other boats below.

In any case, after 87 years I think it is again time to consider what might be "the best that a cultured community can create."

Charles River bridge underpasses

The first meeting about the River St & Western Ave bridge reconstruction is tonight at 6 at the Honan Library, and the Charles River Conservancy has some interesting ideas in this poster about how bridge underpasses could improve our safety and enjoyment of the river.

Allston on Chronicle this Friday

Friday's show (7:30 on Channel 5) will take a look at stalled development projects in Allston and elsewhere in Boston.

Friday, February 5: Arrested Development

More on the New Balance proposal

Seems to me that what New Balance is proposing would do a whole lot more to improve the neighborhood than a big box home improvement store ever could.

Companies vie for Brighton site -

Upcoming zoning hearing

65-67 Surrey Street - Erect a one story addition in rear. Remove and replace second floor stair and decks.

Brighton Landing proposal described at Brighton Centered

Mike Pahre posts some information about the large development being planned for alongside the Mass Pike between Stop & Shop and New Balance. A public meeting is being held at on February 10 at 6:30 on the 2nd floor at 20 Guest Street.

From what I know about this proposal, I think it could be great. Obviously some major transportation improvements would be needed, and this project could help move forward the construction of a commuter rail stop. The Mass Pike improvements could be good in their own right, and also take some load off the River Street / Doubletree traffic nightmare.

The Guest St / Braintree St area could be a lot more than it is today and hopefully this will be a step in the right direction.