TownGown World discussion on occupancy limits

There has been no shortage of discussion in A/B and the rest of Boston since the recent decision to limit occupancy of students in rental housing. The TownGown World website has articles about strategies being used in places like London, Ontario, Bowling Green, OH (where no more than three unrelated individuals can live in a single family home), and State College, PA.

It is great to have a resource like TownGown world to remind us that many other people near and far are facing issues like the ones we have in Allston and Brighton and that there are solutions working elsewhere that could be brought to our community.

The Harvard Crimson compares Harvard and Boston College approaches to expansion

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Two Approaches to Campus Expansion
In a front page article, the Harvard Crimson compares how Boston College and Harvard are pursuing their plans for campus expansion. Interviews with John Bruno and Paul Berkeley, members of the BRA's task forces for both schools, form the backbone of the article, quoting them as follows:

John Bruno

  • “There’s no reason that Harvard had to work with the community over the years because they’re Harvard, and that’s the way it works.”
  • “When Harvard comes to the table, they say, ‘This is our plan, straight and narrow. No one else is going to design our campus—we’re the smartest people in the world.’”
  • “Harvard always says, ‘Here’s the message loud and clear, got it? The community’s concerns have not been put into the plan, and it’s been frustrating.”

Paul Berkeley

  • “Allston ends up with these developments that aren’t Harvard, but, in a sense, Harvard is engineering them. We’re ending up with these large projects that used to be on the edges of town, but they are now being pushed deeper into the neighborhood, along with all the negative impacts.”

The BRA's Gerald Autler and Harvard’s Kevin McCluskey present opposing views about Harvard's ability to make decisions favorable to the Allston/Brighton community. McCluskey suggests that it is reasonable to expect harmony and alignment between town & gown because "the things that are most important to the neighborhood and the things most important to Harvard have a lot of overlap.”

Autler talks about how hard it is to be Harvard, but doesn't every big school have an array of deans, faculty, administrators, and others with strong opinions about the future of the school?

“Institutionally, Harvard has a lot of internal politics, and they must strike a balance between many points of view in which the neighborhood is only one,” he said. “Sometimes, those very different constituencies want very different things.”

The example that leads the story is about BC making sure the community knew it was bidding on what is now the Waterworks development at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. To the contrary, Harvard is establishing a pattern of letting Allston and Brighton learn about relevant news from the papers instead of directly from Harvard. This negligence or disdain has nothing to do with diverse internal constituencies at Harvard.

Of course different people at Harvard want different things. It would be a refreshing break from past practices for Harvard to open up about this reality and explain these competing internal priorities and how they compete with the priorities of the BRA and community.

Brighton Biotech Boom?

Today's Globe lists the top venture capital deals of the first 3 months of 2008. New England's top deal (and the 10th biggest deal in the whole country) is a $45 million investment in an undisclosed bio-tech company in Brighton. Anyone know what this money is funding?

Trying (in vain?) to make Allston Shine

It is hard to miss the irony of today's Boston Shines event coinciding with news that an investigation at the Brighton Public Works yard and elsewhere in the City has found that many Boston Public Works employees "routinely left work early and that managers failed to ensure basic tasks were completed."

"The 14-month investigation by the Finance Commission and private investigators uncovered rampant payroll abuses at DPW yards across the city."
The sight of a fresh layer of graffiti (painted last night, I believe) on local homes and businesses put a further damper on my enthusiasm as I headed out this morning with rake, shovel, broom, and trash bags to do my bit to clean up our neighborhood. I don't think it is a reasonable goal to think that this neighborhood might "shine", but getting rid of the most obvious litter, cigarette boxes, scratch tickets, beer bottles, and other trash is a worthwhile effort.

It was easy to fill several bags with trash just on a short loop around Cambridge St, Brighton Ave, and Harvard Ave. Not like I even came close to picking up all the trash I walked past. Some time in front of the Sports Depot cleaning the Cambridge Street sidewalk felt the most productive. The Sports Depot doesn't seem to put any effort into cleaning this area and a disgusting amount of garbage accumulates there. Passing by the same area later it was nice to see some other people continuing the cleanup there. I met an Aldie St neighbor sweeping up broken glass from the Everett St overpass. He didn't know that today was the "official" City cleanup day but said he tries to tidy up that area whenever he can. Thank you. It certainly needs it.

Menino rebukes city DPW workers - The Boston Globe
Boston DPW workers eyed faking hours face discipline -
DPW workers quit early, city says - The Boston Globe
Department of Public (no) Works -

Harvard's bucket now a bit more full

Rockefeller Gives Harvard $100 Million - New York Times

$30 million of this gift is to support an expansion in art education at Harvard, and Allston has long been discussed as a potential location for a major art and culture expansion by Harvard.
“To outsiders, our bucket may seem full, but at Harvard, we so often see aspirations we hope to fulfill that we can never have too many resources,” said Harvard president Drew Faust.

A take-home exam for Harvard (with no easy answers)

Last night, Boston's chief planner Kairos Shen presented a Draft BRA Outline for Harvard Institutional Master Plan Scope. This title may not sound exciting, but its contents certainly are.

The City is requiring Harvard to modify, or at least create alternatives to, its draft 50-year Master Plan published in January of 2007. Kairos repeatedly referred to this scoping document as the questions of an exam that Harvard's planners and their consultants will have to answer. He was also clear that they will not answer these questions in isolation - Harvard, the BRA, and community will jointly arrive at answers to these questions.

The goals expressed in this document are
  • linking local neighborhoods with each other and with the academic community
  • improved connections between the community and parklands
  • creating centers of neighborhood activity with housing, retail, culture, and more

Kairos (and, by extension, the rest of the BRA and the Mayor) seems to be siding with many people who have been hoping for more than just the "refinements" that Harvard planners have suggested they would make to the existing plan. He challenged fundamental issues like the segregated nature of Harvard's proposed campus (science here, housing there, academic somewhere else...), the size of blocks and buildings, and the limited geographic scope of Harvard's plan. By specifically mentioning areas like Lincoln Street and Everett Street, and by using language like "an integrated circulation network consistent with a comprehensive approach to the evolution of a better North Allston neighborhood", it is clear that the discussion is going to be about much more of the neighborhood than Harvard had intended.

Your feedback to this draft was welcomed by Kairos and I think it is needed in some areas. For example, Hague Street seems to be too much at the edge of the neighborhood to make it an appropriate place for a new transportation center. But on the whole it is a great document.

Sunday - free events at Herter Park

The Cambridge Science Festival comes to Brighton on Sunday for some family-friendly educational events. There are also many great events over the next several days on the other side of the river. Visit the Cambridge Science Festival website for more info.

1:00-2:00 & 2:00-3:00 Charles River Watershed Association Eco Boat Trip
Become a watershed scientist as you travel up the Charles toward Boston on an eco-boat while conducting water testing experiments and playing games that challenge your environmental stewardship awareness.

1:00 - 3:00 Watershed Science Experiments and Exhibitions for Families
Bring the whole family to the banks for the Charles for hands-on child-friendly science experiments that make environmental science come to life.

Sunday is also the 26th Annual Run of the Charles Canoe and Kayak Race which will bring a lot of energy to Herter Park. Races start at Herter Park at noon and will be followed by a Finish Line Festival with live music, refreshments, displays, raffle drawings and awards.

Harvard locks out Allston

For several years there has been an opening in the fence between Smith Field and Harvard's athletic fields that allowed people walking from Western Ave to North Harvard Street take a more pleasant route through the fields instead of using the Western & North Harvard sidewalks. It wasn't an official gate or anything like that, just a "home-made" hole maybe 4 feet high that you had to bend over to walk through and hope you didn't catch your back on the top of the opening. Regardless, many people did use this shortcut and certainly no harm seemed to come from it.

A new fence was recently installed between Harvard's property and Smith Field. The old fence seemed to be in fine shape and the new fence is basically the same as the old one, so it isn't clear why Harvard or the City decided it was worth $50,000 to replace the 1,000 foot long fence. The new fence has no opening where the old one did, though it does have a gate in the back (north-east) corner. But this gate is locked with a big padlock so it certainly isn't helping the pedestrian trying to get from one side to the other.

The motivation for this is limiting of access is hard to understand. Harvard talks a lot about making their campus and Allston in general more pedestrian-friendly, but this is a step in the opposite direction. On page 9 of the new Cooperation Agreement there is specific mention of creating new public pathways on Harvard property. Maybe these will materialize in the future, but for now we'll just have to wonder why this pathway is no more and if this a good fence from a good neighbor.

Smith Field looking a bit Monet-like

Anyone else see the resemblance as workers prepare to lay new sod at Smith Field?

Help Allston and Brighton shine

Allston and Brighton can always use a good cleaning, so please join the annual Boston Shines clean-up on Saturday.

The Mayor’s Office will provide t-shirts, gloves, trash bags, brooms, and rakes. Coffee and pastries will be provided by Dunkin Donuts on Saturday morning starting at 8:30 a.m. Registration will run from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at these two locations:

University Park Campus School op-ed

Worcester's turn-around school - The Boston Globe

The University Park Campus School in Worcester and its partnership with Clark University again gets some well-deserved good press in the Globe. The BRA seems anxious to start talking about benefits that Harvard will give associated with its impending Master Plan. A good place to start would be for Harvard and Boston to do what Clark and Worcester have been doing for several years. For comparison, the graduation rate at UPCS is 100 percent and more than 95 percent of graduates attend college - at Brighton High the graduation rate is 62%.

ABNNF applies for grant to improve Everett Street

The Allston Brighton North Neighbors Forum applied today for a CityRoots grant from the Urban Ecology Institute. With the support of the Mayor's Office, Charles River Watershed Association, and Allston Brighton Greenspace Advocates, we hope to receive funding to support a tree planting project on this strip of urban wasteland along the Everett Street overpass (between Lincoln and Adamson Streets).

This area hasn't looked great in a long time (if ever) and now since the shrubs and weed trees were recently cut down it looks downright pathetic.

North of Harvard Square - Chronicle

North of Harvard Square - Chronicle website and video

Relevant to our thinking about what we might like Western Ave & Barry's Corner to be, the WCVB show Chronicle takes an interesting look at Cambridge's Porter Square and the stretch of Mass Ave north of Harvard Square. Chronicle finds unique stores, locally owned businesses, and the rich variety that many people think is lacking from today's Harvard Square and other shopping districts.

The story mentions the growing role of Lesley College in the Porter Square neighborhood. Lesley's President talks about getting out of his office and into the community and how the students of Lesley can constructively integrate with their Cambridge neighbors. A neighbor remarks that Lesley

saw the mistakes that Harvard made with the community and said "we're not going to make the same mistakes."

Gardner wins an Ultimate Science Classroom

All About BPS: Gardner students unpack the "Ultimate Science Classroom"

Congratulations to Gardner science teacher Dean Martin and everyone at the Gardner on winning $43,000 of science materials from the National Science Teachers Association.

Last night's Harvard Task Force meeting

At last night's meeting the Task Force unanimously approved the following comment on Harvard's Master Plan Notification Form. The Task Force also supported a vote of "no confidence" regarding the current Charlesview relocation and expansion proposal. The Harvard Crimson reported on the meeting in this story.

The members of the Harvard Allston Task Force look forward to Harvard’s submission of an Institutional Master Plan (IMP) that implements an expansion of Harvard’s campus that improves the quality of life for current and future residents of North Allston and North Brighton.
The Institutional Master Plan Notification Form (IMPNF) submitted by Harvard is a vague draft that fails to address community quality of life issues including:

  • Decades of impacts from proposed massive construction
  • Creating open, accessible, and inviting green spaces
  • Public health impacts associated with increased vehicle emissions
  • Stewardship of an overburdened, inaccessible, and inadequately maintained Charles River
  • Increased demand on overloaded transportation systems and services

The improvements to neighborhood quality of life we expect to see in the IMP should be pro-active and integrated into the physical and programmatic essence of the IMP, not as “benefits” after the plan is implemented. This will require significant changes, not mere refinements, to the plan presented in the IMPNF in many areas including:

  • Transportation – Major improvements for public transportation, private vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians are needed to support the needs of the 15,000 new workers that Harvard expects to bring to North Allston. The IMPNF suggests improvements for Harvard people traveling inside Harvard’s campus. But lacking from the IMPNF are the considerable improvements to the public infrastructure needed for 15,000 additional commuters to get from their homes to North Allston, such as reconfiguring access to and from the Mass Pike. A convoy of private shuttles from Harvard Square to Allston is not the answer. Timing of all transportation improvements relative to construction of new buildings should be included in the IMP.
  • Barry’s Corner - The IMP should be clearly consistent with the expectation stated in the North Allston Strategic Framework for Planning (NASFP) that Barry’s Corner will become a “main street-like environment with approximately 200,000 square feet of community-serving retail and services, with housing, academic, and other uses located on upper floors.” Barry’s Corner is not the right place for Harvard’s private athletic facilities. Specific information is needed about how culture and performing art facilities in Barry’s Corner will contribute to a lively and vibrant Main Street.
  • Housing – A key housing goal of the NASFP is to “Integrate new Harvard and community housing to form lively new neighborhood settings.” Harvard’s IMPNF fails to suggest any new community housing and most new Harvard housing is clustered far from the community. Instead of surrounding the Windom & Hopedale neighborhood with rental housing exclusively for transient Harvard students, we expect the IMP will propose an equitable mix of rental and ownership units for Harvard affiliates integrated with similar housing for people with no Harvard affiliation. In particular, Harvard must use its land and resources to help create home ownership opportunities for middle-income families, particularly those with ties to the North Allston/North Brighton community.

    Given the major impacts of the Charlesview relocation, Harvard must accept responsibility for that project and renegotiate its land exchange and financial support to accommodate the clearly articulated housing goals of the community as stated in comments on the Charlesview PNF and in the NASFP.
  • Urban Design – Harvard’s IMP should include design guidelines that respect the intentions of the NASFP and conform to the scale, height, street grid and urban fabric of the existing residential community. Where Harvard's proposals deviate from the NASFP, Harvard must show how, and using which specific land parcels, it intends to mitigate those excessive scales with properly scaled urban fabric and open space.
  • Open Space – The IMP must show how it will extend the campus open space framework to include the entire North Allston/North Brighton community. In particular, Harvard should commit to use its land and resources to create an open space corridor along the Everett St and Holton St corridors with an accessible, green crossing to the Charles River.

It is crucial that the IMP explain how Harvard’s expansion will improve North Allston and North Brighton in the next 5-10 years. The possibility of projects 30 or 40 years in the future has relatively little relevance to current residents. Considering the limited information in the IMPNF and the considerable changes that we believe are needed, we suggest that Harvard submit a series of written “IMP working drafts” with sufficient time for public comment and response to help Harvard and the community work toward a mutually acceptable final IMP.

Sincerely – The Harvard Allston Task Force

May 6 zoning hearings

165 Chestnut Hill Ave: Legalize the expansion of the mezzanine level of the building

417-433 Cambridge St: Change the legal occupancy from

  • three restaurants with takeout, two offices, rec and storage to
  • three restaurants with takeout, two offices, rec and storage to include a smoking lounge, and renovate.

51 Franklin St - Change the legal occupancy from a two-family dwelling to a three-family dwelling, install second level to existing laundry room, build new stairway , build a new front porch and erect third floor dormers on front & rear

Call 635-4775 for more info

Two arrested for robbery on Western Ave

Last night around 10:30pm, officers from District D-14 (Allston and Brighton) responded to 12 Kingsley St. for a person stabbed. More info at

2008 Beacon Street Bicycle Parade

This event is in Brookline, not A/B, but it just a short ride away and a nice chance for a car-free bike ride.

Harvard Crimson story about WBZ

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Harvard May Buy, Build on WBZ Land

Still no comment from Harvard, but the story does have some more quotes from 'BZ, the BRA, and community. How upset must Harvard be that 'BZ spilled the beans about this to the Globe last week?

Allston Civic Association & Harvard Task Force meet Wednesday

The ACA meets from 6-6:30 and Task Force from 6:30-8. The Task Force will be discussing Harvard's Institutional Master Plan Notification Form in advance of the April 25 comment deadline.
Both meetings are at the Honan Library, 300 North Harvard St.

Ming's Auto Repair!

Its not often that a business impresses me to the extent that I am inspired to write about it here. Yesterday I brought my car to Ming's Auto Repair on Rena Street for its annual inspection. Usually getting the inspection sticker means driving around Allston/Brighton trying to find someplace where the wait isn't too long, sitting in the car or milling around the service station with one, two, or three of my kids waiting for the inspection, spending $29, and finally getting out of there.

Ming's Auto Repair is different. I dropped off my car yesterday at Ming's at the end of Rena St and walked home. They called a few hours later when my car was ready to pick up. Since I was in no rush to get the car back, this was much better than spending 1/2 hour waiting. The inspection was free and the only charge was $7.50 for some fluids they topped off. They also put some air in the tires and, the most impressive part of all, was that they vacuumed the car. This is the car that usually has the kids in it eating graham crackers, Goldfish crackers, etc. etc. So vacuuming it is no small task and also something it badly needed. It has already been a better-than-average inspection experience, and when I got in the car and saw how clean it was I thought "WOW!".

Other neighbors have raved to me about Ming's in the past, and you can add my name to the list of very happy customers.

Landmarks Commission hearing on 1615 Comm Ave

The Boston Landmarks Commission will meet at 3:30 on April 22 to review proposed changes to 1615 Comm Ave in Brighton. The Commissioners will vote on the application at 5:30 that evening. For more info call 635-3850.

Cambridge St accident

I don't know what happened to the bike rider, but hopefully he or she is in better shape than the bike. Accidents like this one yesterday at the intersection of Lincoln and Cambridge Streets are happening much too frequently in this area.

A strip of green for Lincoln Street

Cleanup has started on Lincoln Street near Mansfield and Royal Streets. This area has been an unfortunate patch of urban wasteland for too long, and soon it will be better than ever.

Not a rumor any more

WBZ's Allston site focus of talks with Harvard University - The Boston Globe
"Harvard University is in ongoing talks with WBZ to purchase the television and radio station's nine-acre property in Allston as part of its continuing campus expansion in Boston."

New Harvard committee to evaluate undergrad housing

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: College Plans $1 Billion House Renovations

Harvard's 20 year plan for Allston includes four buildings totalling 800,000 square feet which would be home to 1/4 of Harvard's undergraduates. These buildings are planned to be along the Charles River, just north of the football stadium.

A possible change to these plans seems possible now that Harvard has formed a 50-person committee that will issue recommendations about the future of the House system in December. Harvard also plans to begin $1B of renovations to the existing undergraduate dorms in a project that will continue beyond 2020.

Harvard may build a new dorm to house students while the existing dorms are renovated. Given the lack of space in Cambridge it could make sense that this "swing space" would be in Allston. If this new dorm is a prerequisite that needs to be complete before Cambridge renovations can start, it would make sense if Harvard is anxious to move that project through Boston's permitting process. This scenario sounds familiar - it basically identical to last year's story about Harvard's dire need to build the Art Warehouse in Allston to allow renovations to Harvard's museums in Harvard Square. The warehouse wasn't built and somehow Harvard figured out how to renovate its Cambridge museums anyway.

Need more than a website to fix this

Today Microsoft will introduce a new tool for avoiding traffic jams called Clearflow on its website that will "give drivers alternative route information that is more accurate and attuned to current traffic patterns on both freeways and side streets."

I was thinking about traffic yesterday while watching a mile-plus long traffic jam of hundreds of cars heading east on the Pike along Lincoln Street. I don't know if there was an accident causing this or if it was just more cars on the road than it can handle. Either way, seeing this at 12:15 on a Wednesday afternoon is a troubling sight.

Hard negotiations over CSX property in Allston & elsewhere

No fault? No way, CSX told - The Boston Globe

Richenza comments on last night's A/B North planning meeting

Richenza's Journal: "the neighbors are tired of being railroaded, the BRA is tired of being the bad guy, Harvard is polite but disinterested, and there's a lot of talking but not a lot of doing"

Sounds like an accurate assessment to me.

Cooperation Agreement $ totals

Here's a summary of what adds up to the $25 million of items associated with the Science Complex. Top items are:

  • Library Park construction and maintenance: $5.7M
  • Education Portal: $4M for construction, staffing, and 10 years of operations
  • Citywide housing trust fund: $3.8 M
  • Rena Park construction and maintenance: $2.2M

Citywide housing trust fund $3,848,430
Library Park construction $3,500,000
Library Park maintenance (10 years) $2,200,000
Barry's Corner improvements $1,800,000
Rena Park construction $1,500,000
Western Ave sidewalks & trees (already complete) $1,200,000
Education Portal (10 year programming) $1,100,000
City of Boston Job Resource Center funding (10 years) $1,000,000
Computer literacy and office administration training (10 years) $1,000,000
Citywide neighborhood jobs trust $767,730
Education Portal (10 year staffing) $750,000
Education Portal (10 year operational costs) $720,000
Longfellow Path construction $700,000
Rena Path construction $700,000
Education Portal (building renovations) $700,000
Education Portal (10 year rent credit) $646,000
City of Boston Job Resource Center rent (10 years) $600,000
Survey / needs assessment $500,000
Harvard Allston Partnership Fund $500,000
Public Information and Outreach (10 years) $250,000
Barry's Corner public events $240,000
Workforce development $200,000
Adult lecture series (10 year) $150,000
Harvard Human Resources liaison (5 years) $150,000
Gardner School support (10 years) $120,000
Education Portal (computer classroom) $100,000
Allston/Brighton Community Scholars program (10 years) $65,000
Portsmouth Park (already complete) $60,000
Workforce development advertising $50,000

Harvard Crimson story about Cooperation Agreement

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Harvard Signs Benefits Accord

Harvard will not "spend nearly $25 million on benefits to the neighborhood." $25 million is a total number for benefits that includes funds that will be used city-wide and improvements that will be more a part of Harvard's campus than the A/B neighborhood.

Havard Cooperation Agreement finally done

It has been months since we've had any idea what has been happening with this document - now it is final and signed. Based on my preliminary review there are no surprises (either good or bad), so I have no idea why it took 3 months to wrap it up. Here are links to it on the BRA's website:

Complete document - 3.9 MB file - 91 pages
Partial document - 1.2 MB file - 32 pages (does not include 59 pages of exhibits, maps, diagrams, and other supplemental info)

Community Planning meetings Wednesday & Saturday

To everyone commenting on Sunday's post about housing, schools, and families (and everyone else reading interested in the subject), please join your neighbors and planners from the BRA to be part of making important decisions about the future of North Allston and North Brighton.

Transportation looms as a huge issue. How will 20,000+ new people living and working here get from place to place?

Housing hasn't been discussed as much, but it is no less important. A community is the people who live in a certain neighborhood, and bringing thousands of new people to our neighborhood will certainly change it. Will it change for the better? What does "better" mean?

Harvard's proposal is to have 2,000+ additional students living in Allston. But Harvard does not plan to add a single unit of housing for anyone to buy a home here and establish some roots.

Beyond Harvard's campus, what type of people do we want to attract? Renters or owners? Small households in small units or families in larger units? Rich people, poor people, or something in between? Diverse types of people living together or clear boundaries between different parts of the neighborhood? New homes that look like the homes already here or bigger, taller buildings? Please join us and add your voice to this conversation.

Honan-Allston Library, 300 North Harvard Street
April 9, Wednesday 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
April 12, Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Attempted knife attack on Franklin St overpass DAILY INCIDENTS FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 6, 2008

As condos squeeze in, space is not all that's lost - The Boston Globe

Crafting an education magnet - The Boston Globe

Little Sprouts, a Massachusetts-based operator of educationally-oriented centers for young children, has signed on as the first tenant of the re-born Presentation School in Oak Square. Tom O'Brien, president of the Presentation School Foundation comments in this story that "Allston-Brighton is facing the question of how to convince young families to become rooted here" and that PSF's partnership with Little Sprouts, WGBH, and Wheelock College will bring nationally recognized programs for children to Brighton.

But you can't attract families to A/B without housing well-suited for them. In Andreae Downs 's other story in today's Globe "As condos squeeze in, space is not all that's lost" the City employee interviewed seems rather nonchalant about the dismantling of family-friendly housing.

Derric Small, principal administrative assistant to Boston's Board of Appeal, understands that neighbors might be starting to feel squeezed as larger yards disappear around multifamily homes."They shouldn't feel alone," Small said of Allston and Brighton neighbors. "It's happening all over the city."
In this 2005 interview the Mayor expressed alarm at the the declining enrollment in Boston's public schools, which have lost 10% of its enrollment in the last 5 years and will probably close multiple schools in the next few years because of this enrollment trend.

This is clearly a situation where, as it is written in Galatians 6:7, we will reap what we sow. As Boston allows developers to maximize the number of new housing units while ignoring existing zoning laws, Allston and Brighton have fewer and fewer homes attractive to parents raising young children. If Boston really is concerned about dwindling enrollment in its schools, it would make sense to take a hard look at its housing and zoning priorities.

Allston Village Main Streets annual meeting

Thursday, April 10th at Wonder Bar (186 Harvard Ave) from 6-8 PM

Join Allston Village Main Streets for their Annual Meeting. The event will offer local stakeholders the opportunity to network and socialize. Refreshments from the newest Allston Village eateries will be served. There will be a cash bar and live entertainment.

The meeting is free and open to the public.

Allston Board of Trade Annual Dinner

Thursday, May 8 at WGBH (One Guest St.)
Honoring: Mary & Patrick Honan - Brighton High School Football Coach James “Timo” Philip
Tickets $45 per person, Tables of Eight $325
Raffle to benefit the Food Pantry at the Brighton Congregational Church

Social Hour and Tours of WGBH at 5:30
Dinner and Program at 6:30

Information: 617 783 - 2900

Charlesview discussion at the March 4 Boston Civic Design Commission meeting

The BCDC is a group of top Boston architects who review significant projects in Boston as part of the Article 80 Large Project Review process. Seems they were not too keen on the Charlesview design and are expecting a lot of changes. I've added links to profiles of the BCDC commissioners, all of whom are highly experienced and distinguished in the Boston architecture community.

Excerpted from the minutes of March 4, 2008:

The next item was a presentation of the Charlesview Redevelopment Project. Felicia Jacques of Community Builders introduced the Project, noting that Community Builders represented Charlesview Inc., the ownership entity of the existing 40-year-old Charlesview apartments at the corner of Western and North Harvard. HUD has deemed the apartment complex obsolete; they have been negotiating not only the land swap with Harvard, but also the transfer of housing credits via HUD. The existing property is 4.5 acres; the new is about 6.9, one 6.2-acre and one 3/4 acre site to the west along Western Avenue. The program includes not only the 213 replacement units but also up to a total of 282 units of affordable rental housing on the larger site, and 118 units of home ownership units (with a standard affordable ratio) on the smaller. It is a true mix of units, and meets a lot of urban design objectives, such as reconnecting with streets into the neighborhood, and connecting to the River.

Christopher Hill of CBT Inc. presented the design, noting first the the site and existing conditions. The K-Mart is defunct, abandoned, dead, not functional, derelict...the Project is a restorative. We extend Antwerp Street down to Western, retain Gould Street, and introduce a New street. The streets are a residential scale, with street parking on the side. A garage is below. There is a network of pathways, and larger spaces for the community. The FAR is 1.4 (vs. 1.75 allowed), we are emphasizing the open space. Christopher Hill then described the building programs, including retail and community space. They minimized shadows on the courtyards by the orientation, placing smaller buildings to the south.

William Rawn: Are the buildings connected?

Christopher Hill: The plans have progressed beyond those submitted in the PNF; i.e. the building connectors are gone, per William Rawn’s observation.

David Hacin: How do you cross Western to get to the River?

Christopher Hill: As we work with BTD, we will make it more doable with connectivity. The garage has two entries, which allows more flexibility and diffuses the traffic. (Shows elevations.) Breaking down the length along Western, by materials, window sizes, the impression of buildings accreted over time. There is no back door to the Project; it’s 360 degrees. Buildings are tripartite, with a base, middle, top. The townhouses are at a lower scale to connect to the community. A residential scale. We are moving away from the clapboard aesthetic, making it more contemporary, related to the rest of the project.

Christopher Hill then showed the Telford Street site design, the earlier scheme first, then the new. He showed a precedent board of ‘towers’ along the Charles River. The taller portion orients toward the River. There are now 8 stories instead of 10, with roofdecks and terraces on top.

Michael Davis: We should focus on the things we want to see in Design Committee.

Lynn Wolff: There is no relationship of building type to each other along the streets. I question the location of the New street. This is a real opportunity to create a neighborhood, but it feels suburban housing complexy. I know how the community feels about height. But the relationship between height and grace...height is not always the worst thing, when you have a wall. You are planting over the (garage) structure; you have to have the depth and infrastructure to support that.

Andrea Leers: I am not feeling as doubtful about the approach to the site plan. The street coming through seems a good connection; there are two good perimeter blocks. There is the potential to connect across Western.

Lynn Wolff: I was referring to the other street, to clarify.

Andrea Leers: Okay, yes. The scale also seems good - 4, 6, and 8 stories. I’m not so sure about the steppiness of it. Western is not automatically 6 stories, nor should the other side be short. The difference doesn’t seem so much - take an average. The elements could move around the site. The distinction now seems forced. Most successful is the language potential of Telford, which allows all scales. If it is a community, a continuity of language is better.

David Hacin: I agree with quite a bit of that. I know the shopping center well; this will be a tremendous asset, and the scaling down of the shopping center to a more local scale is very welcome. The way the housing turns the corner suggests that there might be more in the future. Maybe the building which turns the corner does have more retail, is more semi-public; a small restaurant or cafĂ© would add to that. If you had a corner landscaped, which allowed a transition across to Telford, so the site seemed integrated, that would be good. There is a band-aid at the shopping center now. The edge could really be improved. The block of townhouses by the Frugal Fanny’s remnant is the least convincing...maybe amenities would be a better transition. It’s a tough adjacency. How can your positive contribution be extended?

William Rawn: i will focus on the thing that troubles (me) the most - the block configuration. The middle part seems like it’s falling into the trap of the past. The programming of the open space - with double-loaded corridor blocks, there is little control over who’s there in the center. It really seems to be moving to a 1940's model. At Charlesview, are those mostly townhouses now?

Felicia Jacques: Yes, stacked townhouses.

William Rawn: 90% of them are now a different model, rather than the stacked townhouses; I think that’s a drastic change.

Kirk Sykes: The density and massing lack some clarity. Ignoring the industrial area at the back seems tough. The organization at the center...I agree with Bill. David’s idea of extending is good. Bar buildings, with townhouses between, tend to set up a wall in these developments.

Michael Davis: A favorite reference of mine, Denise Bennis’ (sp?) book on prairies: we are not good at making them, but making the conditions under which they prosper we’re good at. Here, to make a community, create those conditions - like doors on the street. NOT a gated, managed community and an ambiguous public realm. Doors would help. I am skeptical about the underground parking. Garages are deadly; you’re cheating. Everyone wants a car, and to see it; it helps to define a community. The public realm should be defined in a way that is more familiar. It’s very early in the Project...the space between the buildings is suspect as well. Cut down on the ambiguity.

Andrea Leers: One specific suggestion: change the balance between the double corridor and stacked townhouse types. Find a way to achieve the density with a different mix of types.

David Hacin: The landscape above the structured parking, and nature of the garage...what if the parking were on two levels? Rebalance things. Maybe the blocks should be a little more different, less homogeneous.

Kirk Sykes: There are examples of bar buildings that are more loft-like. Find a character that’s unique. The intent is to be a poster child of giving back, since the value of the existing Charlesview site to the (Harvard) campus is tremendous.

Lynn Wolff: Circulation and massing...your thought process would be good to see in the community.

Christopher Hill: We are getting push-back to create more common open space, not private space. There is a little disconnect. Also, the site is more porous, and less fortress-like, than the existing Charlesview.

David Hacin: Maybe, like at Rollins Square or Langham Court, it’s visible, and gated at times. Tent City you can see, and it feels public, but isn’t. Privateness and control, but the sense of permeability...I appreciate your sense of anxiety.

Lynn Wolff: There are other examples: Maverick Gardens, and Dudley.

Kirk Sykes: You can bifurcate...

Bob Kroin: We raised many of the questions you covered. One is the question of what happens to the rest of the shopping center, and other Harvard property, a broader context.

Brent Whelan (on Harvard Allston Task Force and the Allston Brighton North Neighborhood Forum): I am strongly supportive of the relocation concept; it’s exciting for all. I am also excited by Kairos Shen’s announcement of a new planning process. But I am also concerned that this Project is out ahead of that process. It may move forward at a pace that preempts planning. There are open space questions, and connection to the River...Soldiers Field Road is a barrier. The BRA would do well to ensure this Project moves at a rate coordinated with that process. Also, the site is a little small for the things that should be happening here. If Harvard were more generous (with the land) this could be done in a more reasonable way. Height is a concern, along Litchfield Street. The density, higher than Allston’s average, feels full. I was hoping for more ownership. There is a fair amount of rental still, beyond the 213. I’m concerned about the precedent of (aggregating) low income people; they should be more mixed together. The spaces don’t feel all that ‘common.’ Maybe this should be elsewhere on Harvard land....So, slowing down is good.

Shirley Kressel (community member): Are you getting a 121A?

Felicia Jacques: It’s existing. But we are considering a PDA, or both.

With that, the Charlesview Redevelopment Project was duly sent to Design Committee.

William Rawn: I encourage serious re-thinking.

David Hacin: Create a larger model.

Michael Davis: You have license to be creative.

Shirley Kressel: I agree with the comments.

Harvard Crimson coverage of last night's sustainability forum

Residents Question Allston ‘Green’ Plans

WBZ's loss = Harvard's gain?

The major layoffs over at WBZ suggest that it is getting more likely that Harvard will soon add another piece of riverfront property to its Allston/Brighton empire.

Harvard spent $16 million to buy 5.2 acres at 176 Lincoln St, which is $3 million per acre. So how much might WBZ's 8 acres at 1170 Soldiers Field Road where 'BZ built its home in 1948 be worth? The City assesses the WBZ property at $13 million, which seems low. Harvard already owns the adjacent smaller (1.2 acre) property at 1120 Soldiers Field Road and putting that together with WBZ's property would give Harvard 9 acres just steps from Harvard's athletic fields.

The final selling price we may never know, because of Harvard's use of shell companies and $1 transactions, but based on the Lincoln Street comparison it wouldn't seem unrealistic for the WBZ property to be worth $5-10 million per acre to Harvard. A $40-80 million dollar deal would make it one of Harvard's most expensive Allston acquisitions of all time.

Raising Voices for Sustainability, Students, and the Community

This promises to be an interesting discussion tomorrow evening (Thursday, April 3rd at 7pm) in in Harvard Yard (Emerson 305)

Come learn about what Harvard can do to be sustainable and community friendly in Allston. How will Harvard's plans affect Allston residents? Why is there so much discontent? Why does the planning process need to be more inclusive, and how can we make it so? We've invited several community activists and Harvard affiliates to speak about these issues and how they will affect the lives of students and Allston residents.

with panelists:
Tamara Daly - Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation
Barbara Jaehn - Allston Brighton Neighborhood Assembly
Harry Mattison - Harvard Allston Task Force, Allston Brighton North Neighborhood Forum

Hosted by:
Sustainable Allston
Students for Ethical Expansion and Development (SEED)
Environmental Justice Committee

For more information, please visit the SEED Facebook page or contact Ashley Mannetta at

Councilor Yoon comments on Charlesview

City Councilor Sam Yoon's comment letter is available for your review here.

State Senators Galluccio and Tolman comment on Charlesview

Click here to read the letter submitted to the BRA by Anthony Galluccio and Steve Tolman, the State Senators who collectively represent Allston and Brighton.

NSTAR needs to clean up its Lincoln St act

As t.s. notes in this comment, NSTAR's property at Mansfield and Lincoln Streets continues to be a terrible mess. There is graffiti all over the fence, the damage done a month ago to the fence hasn't been repaired, and the Mansfield St sidewalk hasn't been swept in at least 6 months.
NSTAR, which had a profit of more than $200,000,000 last year certainly could afford to do the minimal amount of maintenance that its neighbors deserve. This substation is staffed at least 5 days a week by NSTAR employees, and someone responsible enough to monitor high-voltage electricity should be responsible enough to report to the appropriate people when their company's property is in such poor condition.

NSTAR's community liaison did not respond to my inquiries on this subject, so yesterday I spoke with the office of NSTAR's Vice President for Customer & Corporate Relations. I was assured that NSTAR will take care of these issues soon, and hopefully they can be more attentive in the future.