Harvard Innovation Lab comments are online


While there is nothing particularly surprising in these letters, it is good that Environment Commissioner Bryan Glascock takes issue with the paucity of information that Harvard provided regarding its transportation and parking plans for this project. He writes:

We are concerned about several transportation issues and find some important information missing. First, we are not clear about how Zimride for intra-campus use and Zipcars located at the site will help to minimize vehicle trips. Using a personal vehicle to go from the Cambridge campus to the project site should be an infrequent occurrence. While we support making Zipcars available for the general public and for workday trips so that employees do not have to commute in single-occupant vehicles (SOV), we question the level of their TDM benefit.

No estimate of vehicle trips, the increase over existing conditions and expected mode splits are included in the IMPNF/Application and no less than 85 percent of parking spaces will be devoted to Harvard-permitted vehicles. This is a considerable percentage and may reflect the need for more comprehensive TDM and a more constrained parking supply. There is no information that suggests how the number of spaces was chosen, whether parking will be limited to those using the Innovation Lab and no indication of the locations in which those presently using the 95 spaces at One Western Avenue will park. There is also no reference to the length of time the Proponent intends to block off the 95 spaces in the parking garage.

Stone Hearth seeking beer/wine transfer from Roxbury

Proposed Allston pizza place finds somebody to sell it a beer and wine license | Universal Hub

Historic Boston gets Speedway grant

The Speedway building along Western Ave does look better since its recent re-shingling but it is still not adding anything to the vitality of the neighborhood. Hopefully this grant and the planning that will follow will help it become something better.

Inside Historic Boston Inc.: State Awards HBI Grants to Study Roxbury and Allston Sites for Preservation and Re-Use:
"The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has awarded HBI a grant of $20,000 to complete redevelopment feasibility studies of two underutilized DCR historic buildings in its Boston.

The Charles River Speedway, located along the Charles River in North Allston, and the Owen Nawn Factory in Roxbury’s Dudley Square will be the subjects of preservation and financial analyses that will help determine each site’s potential for re-use.

Crimson: Harvard should clean up its Allston mess

An editorial in the Crimson suggests that with the Innovation Lab and other projects, Harvard should be more actively promoting local economic growth.

Will we see her at the bus stop?

I don't know if she will be riding the 66 or drinking Bud Light at the other Bus Stop, but supermodel Tyra Banks is spending 3 weeks in Allston.

Rep. Moran cancels D.C. fund-raiser

Moran cancels first D.C. fund-raiser as questions raised about conflict - The Boston Globe
"State Representative Michael J. Moran, the House leader in redrawing the state’s new congressional districts, has abruptly canceled a Washington fund-raiser as critics called it a blatant conflict of interest."
After Team 5 Inquiry, Fundraiser Canceled - Redistricting Chairman Had Planned Washington Event
State Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, chairman of the Massachusetts House Redistricting Committee, canceled a Washington fundraiser just an hour after Team 5 Investigates raised questions about it.

Moran, who has never held a Washington fundraiser, had planned to hold the event the night before he meets privately with seven congressman hoping to remain in office after redistricting eliminates one seat.

"Some friends suggested I have a fundraiser while I was down there, so I decided, 'why not'?" Moran initially told Team 5 Investigates.

While Moran had said he would not be accepting checks from either Capuano or any other congressman, he had not precluded accepting checks ranging from $250 to $500 from their supporters.

Harvard Innovation Lab word cloud

There were countless word clouds generated for the President's recent State of the Union address, and I thought something interesting might be revealed by putting Harvard's Innovation Lab project description though the fun tool at Wordle.

And for comparison, here is a roughly comparable view of the Science Complex.

Monday deadline for Harvard 125 Western Ave comments

Monday is the deadline to send your comments to Gerald.Autler.bra@cityofboston.gov regarding Harvard's proposed Innovation Lab at 125 Western Ave. Harvard's most immediate neighbors in Allston and Brighton could be more deeply involved in this project, and Harvard could do more to reduce the project's environmental impact. Reminding the BRA and Harvard that we still care about what Harvard is doing and here always worthwhile and I hope you will consider sending at least a brief note to Gerald.

Here are a few issues to consider:

Community Access to Consulting Services

Harvard students and faculty will clearly have great opportunities to meet, collaborate, learn, and support each other in the pursuit of starting new businesses. This is great for them and for our society at-large. At the same time other business schools are doing a lot more to encourage business revitalization in their neighboring communities. The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development at Rutgers Business School is one such example.

The organizations that might partner with the Innovation Lab, such as SCORE and CAP, have a lot to offer, but these groups work with organizations all over Eastern Massachusetts. Considering the special history and present state of Harvard's relationship with Allston/Brighton, maybe it is appropriate for Harvard's Innovation Lab to have some special interest in its most immediate neighbors.

Some specific ways this might happen could be for:

  1. Non-profit and for-profit businesses in Allston/Brighton to have some level of guaranteed access to the consulting services affiliated with the Innovation Lab
  2. The Innovation Lab could have specific, measurable, results-oriented goals relating to businesses and potential business owners in Allston/Brighton. The goals should be jointly developed by Harvard, the BRA, and the Allston/Brighton community.
  3. The Innovation Lab could report annually on its progress towards these goals and its impact on the Allston/Brighton community
  4. The Innovation Lab Advisory Board could include Allston/Brighton representatives such as one member from the Allston Board of Trade, one from Allston Village Main Streets, and one at-large community member.

Harvard's Promise to Transform Western Ave Should Be Kept

For years Harvard has promised that as it purchased more property on Western Ave and expanded its campus, the residents of Allston and Brighton would enjoy the "transformation of Western Avenue into a more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood Main Street with streetscape and related improvements."

Harvard and the BRA agreed that Barry's Corner and Brighton Mills would be enhanced by a combined 400,000 square feet of retail. But other than the Stone Hearth Pizza that might someday open in Barry's Corner, what other retail businesses have been added in the past few years?

There will be a small coffee shop in the Innovation Lab, but the tiny space is approximately 1% of the building. Harvard could have made a bold statement by reserving the entire first floor or some significant portion of it, to uses consistent with the Western Ave Main Street such as the daycare center, book store, or fitness center that were planned for the Science Complex across the street. It is pretty clear that Harvard has no interest in anything like that, but maybe they could find a little bit more space for Main Street?

Another possibility would be to do something beautiful and engaging outside the building. 125 Western Ave and its adjacent parking lots have 500 feet of frontage along Western Ave which make it a great place for decorative seating, fencing, sculpture, water fountains, and shelter for people waiting for the MBTA bus. An Allston artist like Ross Miller or John Tagiuri from Somerville would do something great with this space and a reasonable budget. MIT has a Percent for Art program that designates as much as $250,000 for public art at every major MIT renovation or building project. Could Harvard do something comparable?

Sustainability and the Environment

Transportation and Parking

When Harvard proposed the Science Complex, there was tremendous emphasis on Harvard's care for the environment and how everything possible would be done to encourage people not to drive their cars. "Think shuttle buses. And bicycles. And pedestrians." Harvard encouraged.

The Science Complex was to have 350 on-site parking spaces for 1,000 occupants in 500,000 square feet of building space - one on-site parking space for every 1,400 square feet of building space. Harvard explained the importance of limiting auto use and parking spaces as follows:

While the proposed parking supply is nominally less than the projected parking demand, the constrained employee parking supply is expected to discourage driving to work at the Science Complex.

A key element of the Project is to ensure that a minimum number of new automobile trips are generated by the proposed development. Reduction in automobile trip making to the Science Complex has a number of benefits including:

♦ Minimized neighborhood and regional traffic impacts;
♦ Minimized air pollutants and other automobile-related environmental impacts;
♦ Improved street life supporting walking and bicycling;
♦ Increased support for public transit and shuttle services;
♦ Reduced energy consumption;
♦ Reduced need for costly investment in structured parking facilities; and
♦ Improved integration of the Science Complex into the surrounding community.

125 Western Ave is 78,000 sq feet and Harvard proposes to have parking lots on either side of the building with a combined 155 spaces. That's one parking space for every 500 square feet of building space.

Considering that almost everyone from Harvard using the Innovation Lab will be able to get there by walking or on the Harvard shuttle bus, it is hard to imagine why all this parking is needed or desirable. Instead of strengthening its commitment to the environment, Harvard seems to be walking (or driving) away from it.

LEED Certification

For the Science Complex, Harvard was aiming for LEED Gold Certitifcation. For 125 Western Ave, the applicable standard is LEED For Commercial Interiors. This system rates projects from a lowest ranking of Certified (40-49 points) up to Gold (60-79 points) and Platinum (80+ points). Harvard makes no mention of these highest levels of sustainable design, stating only that "HBS will evaluate the latest concepts in sustainable design for this type of project with the objective of achieving a LEED Certification for this building."

Other environmental issues like stormwater management which had great detail in the Science Complex design aren't mentioned for the Innovation Lab.

Upcoming licensing hearings

  • Package store for Comm. Ave Shaw's
  • Western Ave McDonald's wants to be open 24/7
  • Naked Pizza, 433 Washington St
  • Pizza Etc, 429 Faneuil St seeks 3AM closing

A/B lessons from Kendall Square

WBUR's RadioBoston today considers how MIT, the City of Cambridge, and other stakeholders can transform Kendall Square into "a vibrant mix of outdoor cafes, retail stores, office space, and housing".

The question was just asked how MIT will be more successful than Harvard has been in Allston, though the MIT representative diplomatically didn't give a direct answer.

MIT Hopes For A New Kendall Square | Radio Boston | Programs | WBUR

Please support the Higher Ed Financial Transparency Bill

We all know how much impact colleges and universities have on our community and how they often shroud themselves in secrecy. Maybe all large organizations naturally tend towards secrecy, but in the case of publically subsidized, tax-exempt schools it seems appropriate to have more public knowledge about what they are doing.

I hope you will consider joining me in supporting the Higher Education Transparency Act that is being sponsored by State Rep Michael Moran. Please call or email your State Rep and State Senator and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.

You can contact them and learn more about the Act at

The deadline for State legislators to join as co-sponsors is Friday so if you have a few minutes between shoveling sessions, please make a call or send an email.