Neighborhood Housing Trust Fund - not for the A/B neighborhood

Over the past few months the Harvard Allston Task Force spent a lot of time talking about housing in our community. Part of this conversation were questions about what happens with the money that Harvard is required to pay into the Neighborhood Housing Trust fund.

There is an excellent story about this housing fund in today's Globe -
Boston Redevelopment Authority cuts secret deals with developers — at the expense of affordable housing.

Back in 2007 I wrote this post and after reading the Globe article thought I would see how the Neighborhood Housing Trust has been helping people in our part of the City.

For some background, developers are required to pay into this fund $7.87 per square foot of building floor space in excess of 100,000 square feet. So for a 161,000 square foot new building like Harvard's Tata Hall, Harvard pays $480,000 into this fund.

In the last 5 years, only one project in all of Allston/Brighton received funds from this trust. That development was Charing Cross at 1501 Comm Ave which got $500,000 and created 18 affordable units. That's an average of 3 new affordable units per year in A/B due to this Housing Trust Fund.

I hope this program is doing more for other parts of Boston, because while it is collecting millions from A/B developers it certainly isn't producing many results here.

Read the report at

Sixteen Lanes

Did you know that Soliders Field Rd used to end at the Arsenal Street Bridge. As these 1954 maps show, at that point Leo Birmingham Parkway took over and brought cars to the North Beacon St bridge and Nonantum Road.

Now of course we have 4 lanes of Soldiers Field Road running alongside 4 lanes of Birmingham Parkway running alongside 8 lanes of the Mass Pike. 16 lanes! That's a lot of road between Brighton and the river!

Check it out yourself at:

Why you should care about Harvard's Allston extension plans | BDCwire

Why you should care about Harvard's Allston extension plans | BDCwire:

...The plan will radically change the neighborhood. The question that many Allston residents are asking is whether the change will be for the good. Harvard has tried to appease concerned community members by building residential and commercial spaces open to Allston residents, as well as working with a task-force composed of residents to set up a $43 million package to fund various community improvements. The problem is they’ve heard pitches like this before.
A plan submitted by the university in 2007 included a year-round indoor garden, performing arts spaces, and a reflecting pool that could double as a skating rink. All of these amenities had to be cut after the 2008 recession took a big bite out of Harvard’s endowment. Besides, under the current plan, most of the work that would provide direct benefits to current residents will be scheduled to be completed after work is done on the more Harvard-focused developments. Allston residents have every right to be wary that the benefits promised to them will never materialize, or will be scaled down if money gets tight for Harvard sometime in the future.
Like it or not, construction in Allston is starting, and there is not much that young people can do about it. But keep in mind, regardless of what happens, it’s going to be Bostonians our age who, 10 years down the line, will reap the whirlwind if the plan fails, or enjoy the benefits it it succeeds. Personally, I hope the plan delivers on all its promises and Barry’s Corner becomes a more vibrant place that residents and academics can enjoy. Still, 10 years is a long time in urban development and any number of things can happen that will derail development. But if all goes as planned and you make a fortune by building a business at the new Allston innovation space, feel free to take me out for drinks.

New Harvard Hire

PATRICK BROPHY has been appointed associate director of community relations at Harvard University. Brophy was previously assistant director of the Boston’s Capital Construction Division/Property Management Department. A lifelong Boston resident, he spent more than a decade overseeing capital building construction projects for the City of Boston. Brophy graduated from Boston Latin Academy, received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Northeastern University, and has participated in Harvard University’s Executive Education program at the Harvard Business School. He will report to Harvard’s Director of Intergovernmental Relations, Annie Tomasini.

Patrick to announce plans to overhaul Allston section of I-90

Patrick is expected to announce the launch of a $1.3 billion procurement for the new cars at a Tuesday morning meeting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, in addition to disclosing that toll money will be used to straighten the Allston section of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The Allston renovation will eliminate turns before and after the toll booths to alleviate traffic congestion.
In addition, Patrick will also announce that the Allston section of the Pike will undergo an overhaul that will straighten the roadway to allow commuters to more easily pass through the area.
“We expect that we will be able to significantly improve traffic in the neighborhood,” Davey said. 
That construction project will open up 60 acres of new development in the Beacon Park Rail Yard area.

A Master Plan for Good Jobs | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson

A Master Plan for Good Jobs | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson: "as Harvard moves forward with its plans to build, among other things, a hotel and conference center in North Allston, it has the responsibility to bring good jobs to the Allston community."

Annual Fair @ Hill Memorial Baptist Church

Annual Church Fair Hill Memorial Baptist Church 279 N Harvard Street (across from Honan Library) Saturday, Sept 28 10am - 2pm Food, knife sharpening, lots to do for kids and people of all ages

Harvard Secures Donor for Campus Center - "Holyoke Center" coming to Allston?

Harvard now has a sizable portion of the money it will need to convert Holyoke Center from Harvard offices to a student campus center. Where will all those office workers go to make room for the student center?

Harvard Administration Secures Donor for Campus Center | News | The Harvard Crimson:

"The Harvard administration has secured a donor for a campus center and will soon begin planning for its development, University President Drew G. Faust told The Crimson earlier this week... She also said at the time that it would likely be built in Holyoke Center and contain a variety of spaces designed for everything from parties to lectures and studying."

Histortic Boston and Peregrine Group Team Up for the Historic Charles River Speedway Headquarters

Inside Historic Boston Inc.: Once More to the Races: HBI and Peregrine Group Team Up for the Historic Charles River Speedway Headquarters:

Earlier this summer, the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Historic Curatorship Program put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the historic Charles River Speedway HeadquartersBuilding in the Allston/Brighton neighborhood of Boston. The Headquarters building, built in 1899 is all that remains of the Charles River Speedway. The Speedway consisted of a mile long race course for horse cart, or “sulky racing” as well as a course for bike racing. It was developed in the wake of increased automobile traffic on other main roads like Cambridge and Beacon, which had left little room for recreational vehicles. Until the 1960’s, the Speedway stretched all the way to the Harvard Football Stadium. After that time, with no more Speedway to look after, the Headquarters building fell into disrepair. However, it is a beautiful building, with a great story and a layout that offers many options for redevelopment. With this in mind, HBI just finished a submission for consideration by DCR.

Benefits for Allston | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson

Benefits for Allston | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson
"While education and entertainment are important, residents dealing with business closures, construction sites, and a rapidly changing neighborhood demographics deserve benefits related to housing, employment, and transportation....However, it would be a shame if Harvard simply used these millions to construct resources that were useful only to Harvard affiliates."

Invest In Boston town hall meeting - Tuesday in Brighton

Developer eyes 93,000 square-foot mixed-use building with 80 apartments

Developer eyes 93,000 square-foot mixed-use building with 80 apartments in Allston - Allston Brighton - Your Town -

A Boston-based developer hopes to build a 93,000 square-foot mixed-use building with 80 apartments along the Massachusetts Turnpike in Allston.

The proposal for 61-83 Braintree St. also calls for 6,000 square feet of retail space and 68 parking spaces in Allston, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority website."

The disappearing Petco trees

Anyone else curious why Harvard ripped out these perfectly nice looking trees on Everett Street behind Petco?
Before (from Google Street View)
And replaced them with these new trees and planters?

There's nothing wrong with the new landscaping, but it seems like an unusual priority considering the previous condition of the area which seemed just fine.
One of Harvard's 6 proposed public realm community benefit projects is new streetscape along Holton Street across from the Star Market loading dock.

The green line in Harvard's map shows this streetscape improvement continuing along the backyard of the two-family home that Harvard owns at 208 Everett Street at the intersection of Holton and Everett.

But isn't this a strange place for a streetscape improvement? Harvard recently installed this white fence and the opportunities to make this stretch of Everett Street lovely seem limited at best.

Update: Harvard is already "improving" the 100 Holton St streetscape

I recently posted this photo from 96 Holton Street (across from the Star Market loading dock) where Harvard proposes to make one of its 6 public realm community benefits. I wondered why the fine-looking plants that used to be here were removed.

So I was surprised when I just went by the same site. It looks like it was all replanted yesterday. It is a peculiar definition of community benefits to include landscaping on Harvard property to improve the appearance of its own commercial properties. And it is strange to start implementing these benefits so immediately after proposing them without waiting for any feedback on the proposal.

Harvard rips it up & to replace it as a community benefit

One of Harvard's 6 proposed public realm community benefit projects is new streetscape along Holton Street across from the Star Market loading dock.

Recently I noticed that all the plantings on Harvard property in this area have been very recently torn out. Here are some before and after photos showing all the bushes and perennials that used to be in front of the avFx business...

Google Street view
Google Street view
I always thought those plantings were just fine. Maybe there was space to add a couple more hosta, but I certainly don't think there was anything wrong with it.

Well, someone at Harvard must have had a problem with how that looked. All those plants have been torn out and it seems to have happened very recently. Now Harvard is proposing to plant new plants to replace the ones that were removed. And Harvard thinks this should be one of our 6 public realm benefits during the next 10 years.


Harvard proposes to beautify a sidewalk along a parking lot

If you were making a list of 6 public realm investments to be proposed by Harvard for the next TEN years, you might think that all 6 would be pretty impressive. Or maybe not...

100 Holton Street is across the street from the Star Market loading dock, next to the blank brick wall of an old Harvard building where I think the Fire Department still trains, and next to another Harvard property.

It is also the site of one of Harvard's 6 public realm offerings. How nice will the entrance to this parking lot be when Harvard is done with it?

Certainly I think the entrance to every Harvard parking lot should be lovely, but if you were choosing 6 ways to improve our community would this be one of them?

What happened to Rob Lue's big (and not so big) ideas?

A story in yesterday's NY Times "Most of U.S. Is Wired, but Millions Aren’t Plugged In" brought to mind the Harvard Allston Task Force meeting in June when Harvard Professor Rob Lue gave a long and enthusiastic presentation about online learning, the Ed Portal, and helping more people get online and gain proficiency with computers and the internet. Some of Prof Lue's comments were:

"HarvardX is one of those Harvard efforts which I think could be used to strengthen and expand the Ed Portal’s work. HarvardX is an effort to bring  educational content to the internet"

"I think HarvardX has a  place in the Ed Portal. Bringing HarvardX to the Portal would allow for us 6 to train people to use a computer and to plug people into knowledge and the information super highway."

"I want to look into establishing a tablet loaner program."

After all of the enthusiasm from Rob and other Harvard staff, it was strange to watch Harvard's community benefits proposal presentation last week and see nothing about about Prof. Lue's ideas.

In Chicago, the Smart Community program has training courses that "offer participants a notebook computer once they’ve completed a designated set of classes—in total nearly 1,300 computers will be distributed."

Compared to that, Prof. Lue's suggestion that maybe Harvard could create a loaner program to let people borrow a $200 tablet computer doesn't sound all that generous. But according to the presentation given last week, Harvard won't even be creating that iPad library.

A community benefit "study"?

Another one of Harvard's 6 proposed public realm projects seems intended to help connect North Allston / North Brighton and the Charles River. That's great!

But is Harvard actually proposing to create these connections to the river sometime in the next 10 years? Or just study the idea and think about it? Pay close attention...

You call that a "top 6 community benefit"?

If you were making a list of 6 public realm investments to be proposed by Harvard for the next TEN years, you might think that all 6 would be pretty impressive. Or maybe not...

I'm a huge fan of making our streets safer and I spend plenty of time with young children walking and bicycling around North Allston. But it never occurred to me that the intersection of Holton Street and Everett Street was one of our biggest safety issues. The intersection already has traffic lights, push buttons for walk signals, and the electronic countdown timers that tell you how long you have to cross the street.

But somehow replacing this traffic signal is one of the six things that Harvard wants to do in Allston.

Harvard's bike map is wrong

Harvard's IMP has this map on page 183 showing "Planned Transportation Improvements". As someone who lives near Lincoln Street, bicycles frequently, and remembers when a cyclist was killed at the intersection of Lincoln & Franklin, I was very pleased to see these "BTD Bike Plan Elements" that I have highlighted in this image from Harvard's IMP.

Too bad Harvard's map is not true. BTD has no plans to improve these roads.

I asked the BRA and Boston Transportation Department what these "BTD Bike Plan Elements" were for Lincoln Street and Litchfield Street. I got a copy of the City's 5 year and 30 year bike plans as shown below. Neither one shows BTD doing anything on Lincoln Street or Litchfield Street like Harvard says.
Boston 5-year bike plan

Boston 30-year bike plan
It is also too bad that Everett Street is in the 30-year plan but not the 5-year plan.

Did you know there is an Ed Portal Plaza?

While it is nothing like the beautiful Javits Federal Building Plaza that I mentioned in a recent post, Harvard's Ed Portal has its own plaza on North Harvard Street.

The Science Complex Cooperation Agreement describes these "new pathways and landscaped entrances" to the Ed Portal as part of $1.8 million dollars in community benefits that Harvard would invest in Barry's Corner.
Harvard's 2009 Annual Report on the Cooperation Agreement for the Harvard University Allston Science Complex describes the completion of this project:

"In the fall 2008, Harvard created a new plaza in Barry’s Corner in front of the Education 
Portal including landscaping and streetscape improvements."

I mention all this because it is an example of how nice-sounding community benefits sometimes don't work out all that well. There was no public process to design this "plaza", and I don't think the result is all that great. Has anyone ever said "Let's go hang out at the Ed Portal plaza this afternoon?".

And while most plazas are built to last decades, this "community benefit" will be demolished just 5 years after it was created to make way for the construction of the new Barry's Corner Apartments.

Public Plaza example from NYC

With all the recent talk about creating great new public spaces in Allston, I thought this could be an interesting example to keep in mind. It was designed by the same firm that did Ray Mellone Park behind the Honan Library.

This 1 acre park cost $18 million and is featured in the current issue of Architectural Record magazine. The article notes that "Public plazas are difficult to design and program—in-between spaces that are neither park nor street."

"The plaza is inviting, in part, because of its obvious craft. From the benches, for which the marble was handpicked from a Vermont quarry, to the bronze garbage cans, which appear to balance on their rounded bottoms from sheer centrifugal force, the luxury of the hard surfaces complements the garden elements."
The architects created curving plant beds to provide visitors with a sense of intimacy and separation from the street. The marble benches and cobbles add luxury to the civic plaza. Magnolias in bloom signal spring’s arrival.
Today, curved plant beds hug marble benches, some with embedded LED lights. Magnolias add a park-like element to the hard-surface plaza, while a fountain invites interaction.
Jacob K. Javits Federal Building Plaza | Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates | New York City | Project Portfolio | Architectural Record:

Harvard Shuttle - Where & When

As a commenter recently noted, the Harvard Shuttle doesn't come to Barry's Corner. The stops closest to the Allston neighborhood are at the I-Lab and Harvard Stadium.

Here is the Summer schedule:
The Allston Campus shuttle runs mornings from 7am to 10am
In the evenings it runs from 4:15pm to 7:45pm
There is one shuttle every 30 minutes.

Between 10am & 4:15pm, sorry but there is no Harvard Shuttle this summer.

My presentation from last night's meeting

Community Presentation of Harvard University's Allston Master Plan by Harry Mattison

30 visitors a day!

Harvard's IMP states:
"Currently, there are four new projects which include approximately 100,000 square feet of retail and service uses being planned, permitted and constructed in and around Barry’s Corner. These major projects will bring visibility, new housing and employment destinations and a surge of retail and pedestrian activity to Barry’s Corner."
Can you believe that one of these "major projects" that will contribute to a "surge of retail and pedestrian activity" is the warehouse, mail room, storage facility, and Harvard Police Shooting Range!
28 Travis Street: 30,000 square feet. This involves the adapative re-use of an old Comcast warehouse into a 42,000 square feet campus services building with an adjacent 10,000 square feet fleet maintenance facility. The building will be the home of Harvard’s IT services center, mail facility, transportation department and recycling center. These uses will employ over 90 employees. Approximately, 30,000 square feet of the main building will house active service uses that host over 30 visitors each day. This significant employee and visitor base will contribute to the activation of the Barry’s Corner retail center. The Campus Services building
is currently under construction with completion estimated at September 2013.
Only Harvard could describe a place like this as having a "employee and visitor base [that] will contribute to the activation of the Barry’s Corner retail center."

Half-Sized Science Complex

Here's another drawing in the 10 year plan that shows only two of the originally planned 4 buildings being built. 

The two missing buildings eventually get built according to Harvard's plan, but they are "long term". Does anyone have a clue when that will be?

All the buzzwords, None of the benefit or vision

Harvard - Allston Campus - Page 47 -

"This IMP hits all the fancy buzzwords including but not limited to "greenway" and yet there's absolutely no vision (the massing and future layout of Barry's Corner is completely bungled) and no clear benefit for Harvard either. This IMP strikes me as a fancy placeholder so that they can continue to landbank here (with a planning horizon counting in centuries, not years)."

Harvard Science Complex in the 10 year plan

Harvard hasn't announced the new design for the Western Ave Science Complex that is possibly re-starting construction for next year. But it is interesting to see how it is shown in Harvard's Master Plan and how different it is than the previous design.

Science Complex in the 10-year plan of Harvard's new plan
Looks like 2 buildings with most of its greenspace along the SwissBakers parking lot
Harvard IMP - page 13

2007 Physical Model of the Science Complex - 4 buildings with a courtyard

2007 first floor plan

Smith Field in Harvard's 10 year plan

There's been a lot of talk about making big changes to Smith Field. It is interesting how Harvard shows Smith Field in this 3D rendering of its 10 year plan. Looks like a Little League field, two softball fields, a baseball diamond, and a basketball court. Ten years from now I sure hope Smith Field has a lot more diversity of facilities than that.
Harvard IMP - page 13

Harvard's 5 year plan & importance of interim uses

Harvard's IMP shows many 3D renderings of what its campus and Barry's Corner might look like in 10 years, but there are no such renderings showing what things will look like for the next 5+ years. And 5 years is quite a while.

So I've color coded the map on page 101 of Harvard's Master Plan with the phasing information on page 112.

The takeaway is that Harvard's 4 IMP projects between now and 2018 are relatively small interior projects at Harvard Athletics and HBS. It isn't until 2020 that we might see new construction in Barry's Corner that could enliven this area.

If it is going to be 6+ years before these buildings begin construction, it becomes all the more important to ask what will happen on these sites in the meantime to contribute to a strong and vibrant community.

What are the "BTD Bike Plan Elements"?

This is an interesting image from Harvard's IMP. It makes it look like there are a great many transportation improvements coming to most all the major roads in our neighborhood.
Harvard IMP page 183
But can this be true? What could BTD (the Boston Transportation Department) have planned for "bike plan elements" on narrow, high-speed Lincoln Street? If the overhead wires were buried, the utility poles removed, and the road widened towards the Mass Pike to create space for physically seperated bike lanes that would be a great improvement. That would also be a multi-million dollar project that I haven't heard seriously discussed. If the plan it just to paint "sharrows" in the existing lanes then that really isn't going to accomplish much.

The spaces between those Harvard buildings

A recent NY Times op-ed noted:
The Bloomberg administration has certainly not been tone deaf to place-making during the last dozen years, transforming many city parks, waterfronts and plazas, and embracing sustainable design. But its plan for East Midtown fails to recognize a fundamental paradigm shift. The focus in designing cities has now turned from buildings to the spaces between those buildings — sidewalks, plazas, parks — whose disposition requires planning.
Harvard concurs in its IMP:
Successful plazas support a wide variety of activities including temporary markets, art installations, or performances
But the IMP has precious few specifics about how this might happen. The word "sculpture" is nowhere to be found. The word "art" is barely mentioned. In the 6 pages dedicated to the Charlesview Grove, there is no mention of a budget. Plans to install art do not exist. Instead, Harvard offers this:
"During the period in which the former Charlesview Apartments undergo demolition, to
the extent consistent with health and safety, Harvard will make portions of the grove fully
accessible to the public, with provision for internal walkways and seating areas." (page 124)
 Harvard's "gateway" building isn't planned until 2020 at the earliest. Here is what Harvard proposes the area will look like until then. It will be nice to have the existing chain link fence removed, but this seems to fall far short of the award-winning public space that it could be.

Harvard ignores the traffic created by a 3,000 seat arena

Harvard wants to build a 3,000 seat basketball arena right near the intersection of Western Ave & North Harvard Street. This intersection is already frequently congested and difficult for drivers and pedestrians.

Harvard has decided, that because heavy use of the facility may not occur during the "typical morning or evening peak hours" that it can therefore pretend that this 3,000 seat arena will have no traffic impact at all. 

Of course Harvard rents its athletic facilities to many non-Harvard organizations, and things change about when and how Harvard facilities are used. It wasn't that long ago that Harvard Stadium was used only during the day.

It is fine if Harvard wants to build a grand and glorious basketball arena and rent it to private teams, organizations, and events. But Harvard could also admit that this will bring new traffic into our community and that merits study and roadway improvements.
Harvard IMP page 185
By the way, what is "the University's event management strategy"? Is that strategy what causes situations like this?

Can Harvard students not cross North Harvard Street safely?

The Allston/Brighton community and the BRA have both asked why a new Harvard basketball arena is the best use of land in Barry's Corner. It the "site selection rationale" of its Master Plan, it is interesting that Harvard describes North Harvard Street as a busy and dangerous street that poses a grave safety risk.
Harvard Master Plan, page 136
I have crossed North Harvard Street countless times, pushing infants in strollers, with young children riding bikes, in bad weather, and more. It would be nice to have a crosswalk with walk signal at the Honan Library (as an alternative to the one at the one at Easton Street). But when compared to Western Ave, Cambridge Street, and the other major roads in our community, crossing North Harvard feels relatively easy and safe. I doubt that Harvard students, who have to cross many busier roads (like Memorial Drive) on their walk from Cambridge to Allston, would have a safety problem getting across North Harvard Street.

Harvard's Charlesview Parking Lot

The site of the current Charlesview Apartments is one of the most prominent gateway locations of our neighborhood. It is a shame that Harvard wants to put a big surface parking lot there.

Also, the building shown in the left side of the images below (Harvard calls it the "Gateway project") is not scheduled to be built until 2020 at the earliest. There seems to be no proposal for how these ~8 acres will enrich the community and Barry's Corner for the next 6+ years.

This is not a new concern. Here is what the Task Force wrote 8 months ago:
Harvard Allston Task Force comment (Nov 19, 2012) - Harvard Parking Lot on the site of the current Charlesview housing - This proposed use shown on page 35 of the IMPNF is completely unacceptable. A large surface parking lot in this strategic and highly-visible site is completely contrary to our vision for North Allston. We strongly oppose Barry’s Corner being the backside of Harvard’s campus where undesirable uses are dumped.
Harvard has suggested that this site could also be used for construction activities such as material storage, staging, and parking. We disagree with this proposal, especially considering the pending vacancy of the CSX and Romar sites which would give Harvard other nearby options for parking and construction activities.

And here is Harvard's proposal. It is quite deceiving for the parking lot to be drawn in light gray in two of the drawings which does not make it look like asphalt. The 3D view shown on top was drawn by Harvard's consultants so that it only shows 1/2 of the parking lot.

The text in Harvard's "Parking" section of the IMP (which gets just 1/2 page in a 294 page document) says the following:

The location of the parking lots and garages seeks to minimize impacts on adjacent streets
by taking advantage of new streets such as “Academic Way” and “South Campus Drive”
to divert traffic away from Barry’s Corner. The parking facilities and their driveways will be
integrated into the network of pedestrian paths in the Ten-Year Plan to minimize pedestrian
and vehicular conflicts and to provide suitable connections to the new and existing
institutional uses.

How does this make any sense? These parking lots exit onto North Harvard Street and Academic Way. The cars that use the Academic Way exit will then have to exit onto Western Ave. So how does this minimize impact on adjacent streets? Visually, a single row of trees along North Harvard Street doesn't minimize much of anything. What does it mean to integrate parking lots and driveways into "the network of pedestrian paths in the Ten-Year Plan to minimize pedestrian and vehicular conflicts"?

Meet the Mayoral Candidates: How would you ease apartment overcrowding?

Meet the Mayoral Candidates: How would you ease apartment overcrowding? - Boston.comment -

"This week, we asked Boston's mayoral candidates what they would do to ease overcrowding in neighborhoods like Allston. Here are their answers. Add your thoughts to the comments or tweet at the hashtag #BosMayor."

Ward 21 Democratic Committee Endorses Michael Ross for Mayor

First Ward Committee to Endorse in Mayoral Race Boston

The Ward 21 Democratic Committee officially endorsed Councilor Mike Ross for Mayor on Thursday. The committee, made up of Democratic activists from parts of the Allston, Brighton, and Fenway neighborhoods, cited Ross’ innovative ideas as key to the endorsement.

“Councilor Ross stood out in a field of several qualified candidates as the one most able to use innovative ideas to create jobs, improve our schools, and modernize government,” said Lauren Mattison, the Committee Chair. “We’re excited to spend the rest of this campaign making phone calls, knocking on doors, and telling people why Mike Ross is the best candidate for Mayor.”

Nine of the 12 candidates for Mayor filled out the Committee’s questionnaire, which addressed topics such as education, housing, institutional expansion, open space, and transportation. Those candidates, including Charlotte Golar Richie, John Connolly, and Bill Walczak spoke to the community before the Committee vote on Thursday. In the end, Councilor Ross received more than enough votes to qualify for an endorsement. 

“I’m honored to have the support of the Ward 21 Committee, and I look forward to working with them in the months ahead. Grassroots support will be key to this campaign, and I’m happy that my desire to bring new ideas to city hall is resonating,” said Ross.

Learn more about the candidates from the Ward 21 Democratic Committee

In June 2013, the Ward 21 Democratic Committee sent questionnaires to all candidates for mayor, city council at-large, and the city council seats in Districts 8 and 9. They asked campaigns to return the questionnaires by July 8. Use the link below to see the responses received as of July 9. They will post any additional responses as they receive them.

John Connolly for Mayor Allston-Brighton Neighborhood Party - Thursday, July 25th

With all this summer heat I know it can be hard to think ahead to Boston's election for Mayor this summer. But now is a great time to get to know the candidates and show them how much we care about making Allston and Brighton and all of Boston a better place to live!

I have known John Connolly for several years and have consistently been impressed by his involvement in the Allston and Brighton community. He is now a leading contender in a crowded field of candidates running to be our next Mayor, and we need a Mayor who understands our neighborhood and who will work hard to improve our quality of life.

Please join John for an Allston-Brighton Neighborhood Party on Thursday, July 25th at 6:30 PM at Devlin's (332 Washington St in Brighton Center). Whether you are already supporting John, considering who to support, or just starting to think about our next Mayor, I hope you will join us to learn more about John and his vision and experience.

You can also learn more about John at:

Meet Candidates for Mayor and City Council At-Large

The Boston Ward 21 Democratic Committee invites you to meet with candidates for mayor and city council at-large:

Candidates Nights
Monday, July 15 and Thursday, July 18
At West End House Boys & Girls Club
105 Allston Street, Allston (

More details and a list of scheduled candidates will be posted at when the events get closer.

Harvard-Allston Task Force Raises Concerns About Community Benefits Conversation

Gerald Autler, senior project manager at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said on Monday that the task force would have a 60-day period to provide feedback on the master plan [that Harvard will file in July]. But task force member and Allston resident Bruce E. Houghton railed against Harvard and the BRA for expecting the task force to identify the benefits they want included in the plan in what he described as an unreasonably short period of time.
“What is expected of this community and what’s being placed on inappropriate and impossible,” Houghton said. “What’s truly inappropriate is the fact that there’s an expectation on behalf of BRA that this community should put into place in four months a community benefit package that might last as long as 10 years.”

Send your input to the City of Boston for its Open Space Plan 2015-2021

Public Input | City of Boston

The City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department is reaching out to the public and to users of the parks, playgrounds, and other open spaces in the city, whether or not you reside in Boston, to learn about how they use open space in Boston and how we can improve their experience.

Impending A/B North Development & Transportation

There's a lot coming our way in the next several years. What did I miss? What are your thoughts on these projects?

Harvard Jams Western Ave

11:00 on Saturday morning and Western Ave is jammed in both directions from North Harvard Street to the Western Ave Bridge. Way too many cars per minute are trying to enter the Harvard Business School parking lot.

State plans 2-year, $10m project to rebuild Cambridge Street bridge over I-90 in Allston - Allston Brighton - Your Town -

State plans 2-year, $10m project to rebuild Cambridge Street bridge over I-90 in Allston - Allston Brighton - Your Town -

Construction is expected to begin this fall, though the exact timeline has not been finalized

Once complete, the bridge will include a 10-foot-wide sidewalk on one side, nine-foot-wide sidewalk on the other side and six-foot-wide bike lanes abutting each sidewalk, officials said.
Between the bike and traffic lanes will be a three-foot-wide buffer. Each of the four total traffic lanes will be 11 feet wide. A six-foot-wide median will divide the bridge’s travel lanes.

Instead of Central America, What about Allston?

A Harvard professor came to Allston to talk about the importance of the arts in Bogota, Colombia during the 1990's. Meanwhile, Harvard has shelved the plans it had a few years ago for Western Ave and other parts of North Allston to become an arts mecca. Questions about the role of public art in Harvard's $150 million, 325 unit apartment building that will start construction later this year get nothing better than weak responses like:
The proponent will work with Harvard, the City and the community to explore how public art can be incorporated into the project.
So kudos to Mr. Stenson for suggesting that Harvard think locally about the importance of the arts.

Sommer Highlights Cultural Agency at Allston Ed Portal | News | The Harvard Crimson:
"John J. Stenson Jr. of Brighton asked the first question after [Harvard Romance Languages and Literatures Professor Doris] Sommer wrapped up her lecture, demanding to see funding from the University to promote theater in Allston. 
“Never mind about Bogotá. What about right here?” Stenson said. “Put a play on here. That’s your challenge.”"

Harvard faculty feeling like Allston residents

There is plenty of decisions about Harvard's Allston expansion that should be driven by purely internal Harvard decision-making. I think there are also plenty of issues relating to the public realm along Western Av & North Harvard St and the too many blighted Harvard properties all over our neighborhood where some the community should have a role in the decision-making process. 

You can replace "faculty" with "Allston community" in this article and it all sounds pretty familiar

After New Email Search Revelations, Faculty Question Balance of Power | The Harvard Crimson:
"...faculty have not been consulted on a range of important decisions over the last year pertaining to the Government 1310 cheating case, the relocation of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to Allston" 
"history professor Lisa M. McGirr said that the monthly meetings have become something of a “spectator sport” in which faculty watch as administrators break news about their decisions." 
"Asani agreed, saying he believes the Faculty Council—and Faculty meetings more broadly—are too closely controlled by administrators for professors to have a free and full discussion."

I wonder what this “multimodal transportation solution” will be

As SEAS Moves to Allston, Administrators Contemplate Schedule Changes | The Harvard Crimson:

"Computer science professor David C. Parkes, a co-chair of the Transportation Task Force alongside Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp, wrote in an email that while the task force has not yet convened, it will eventually investigate a “multimodal transportation solution” to connect Cambridge and Allston."

Lesley University may propose renovating Smith Field in Allston in exchange for use of the site

Lesley University is gauging community interest in having it renovate the city-owned Smith Field in Allston and, in exchange, have permission to use the space for Lesley athletics
“Lesley’s main goal is to provide the best overall experience for our student-athletes, and state-of-the art facilities are key,” [Amanda McGregor, spokeswoman for the university] said.

Harvard-Allston Task Force Criticizes University for Not Providing Benefits | The Harvard Crimson

Harvard-Allston Task Force Criticizes University for Not Providing Benefits | The Harvard Crimson:

“[Barry’s Corner] is going to rise out of the Earth, and we’re going to have nothing to show for it,” task force chair and Allston resident Ray V. Mellone said.
After some discussion, task force members rallied around the idea of tying improvements of Smith Field, a park adjacent to the site of the planned development, to the development of Barry’s Corner.
BRA Chief Planner Kairos Shen said that the agency would explore language that could require a commitment from Harvard to renovate the field in order to receive BRA approval for the Barry’s Corner development. Shen and task force members agreed to try to come up with a provision by the time the project faces evaluation from the BRA.

SEAS Affiliates Discuss Allston Campus Plans

SEAS Affiliates Discuss Allston Campus Plans | The Harvard Crimson:
"[Executive Dean for Administration G. Timothy] Bowman also said that he hoped the SEAS Allston campus would develop into a “college student hub” for students coming from the iLab and Harvard’s athletic facilities.
“We want it to be a destination that students, faculty, and the University community want to go to, even if they don’t have a class,” Bowman said."
I wonder what Dean Bowman thinks would make Western Ave a "college student hub"? Will the Allston community also want to go (or be invited to go) there? The previous plans for the Science Complex had Harvard-only amenities like a private rooftop restaurant & bar.

St. Patrick's Puppets in Allston & Brighton

Finnegan's Wake from The Vaudeville Puppets on Vimeo.

City proposes blocking Harvard from opening new buildings in Allston if school fails to meet terms for development

City proposes blocking Harvard from opening new buildings in Allston if school fails to meet terms for development - Allston Brighton - Your Town -

"The proposal would require Harvard to:

Start a community planning process this April to build its promised Rena Park and begin the first phase of the park’s construction in 2014; develop a comprehensive master plan for campus services, which would clarify that the 28 Travis St. relocation project is temporary; implement that campus services master plan within one year after the university opens its proposed science complex in Allston, which is scheduled to open in about five years; and to not run vehicular service between midnight and 6 a.m. at the 28 Travis St. site, Shen said.

If Harvard fails to comply with those conditions, the city would withhold occupancy permits for new buildings the university builds until the school is in compliance."

The A/B Kid Exodus

John Keith has done some nice work summarizing Boston's population changes by ages: Boston population changes over past two decades | Universal Hub

Here's the spreadsheet with data for all neighborhoods and the A/B data

Allston - Brighton population in 1990, 2000, and 2010

Here's how the # of kids 14 & under has steadily dropped in the last 20 years
1990: 5,939 (8.5% of total)
2000: 5,536 (7.9% of total)
2010: 4,583 (6.1% of total)

More than 1/2 of Allston and Brighton residents are in their 20s

Huge Russian Parties coming to Linden Street?

The "Russian Benevolent Society" will be at the Zoning Board of Appeal on March 26 seeking to increase their capacity for a "restaurant / lounge with live entertainment" to 450 people with outdoor seating for 90.

In 2011 they got permission to serve dinner and liquor Thursday through Sunday night. (Under the society's old club license, it could only open to serve meals and liquors for functions.) \

In 2012 they got permission to serve dinner seven days a week. (The society, originally set up as a private club, had been open to the public Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m)

I wonder what they will do in 2014?

How Harvard is reneging on its Rena Park promise

A concerned reader sent me an email this afternoon because he and his friends are confused by this excerpt from the "SLAM Brings Allston Debate into Harvard Yard" story in today's Harvard Crimson:
"Mattison said that Harvard had promised to place a three-acre park where Barry’s Corner meets the residential community, but that the University is now reneging on that promise."
Hopefully this makes it more clear... defines "renege" as "to go back on a promise or commitment".

Take a look at Rena Park near North Harvard Street in these Harvard plans from 2007 and 2008:

2008 Science Complex Cooperation Agreement (page 87)2007 Harvard Draft Master Plan (page 46)

"Adjacent to the Allston library on North Harvard Street will be the largest open space in Rena Park"

Here is Harvard's 2012 plan (which does not include the phrase "Rena Park")

2012 Harvard Draft Master Plan
Barry's Corner 10 year plan (page 36)Long-Term Open Space Plan (page B-7)

Notice how during the last 4 years Harvard lost the big piece of Rena Park near North Harvard Street, the Honan Library, and Mellone Park? There is a little tail of "Harvard Campus Landscape" extending to the east, but no "Public Open Space" where Harvard promised the largest open space in Rena Park.