Friday, December 23, 2005

Details of Harvard/Friends Proposal for Charles River/rail yards, etc.

Bob Reports:

The following is my analysis of the proposals in the “City minus Traffic” front organization proposal for the Charles River, realizing that this entity is using some high powered talent and claims to be based on the Bible of the environmentally reprehensible Charles River Conservancy which in turn is funded by a bunch of developers including Harvard University.

The analysis is taken from

The proposal runs from Watertown to the Goose Habitat on the north and from the WBZ area to the Mass. Ave. bridge on the south.

1. New “Housing” at Birmingham Parkway/Elliot Bridge/Memorial Drive in the vicinity of the Buckingham, Brown and Nichols prep school. At the end of Memorial Drive is the back side of Mt. Auburn Hospital. As is normal in the Boston Area, the most important difference between Memorial Drive and Birmingham Parkway is the name. They are the same road but Birmingham Parkway is an undeveloped, natural area.

Housing locations proposed are:

A. Across from BBN in or near what is now the ramps from the Elliot Bridge to Memorial Drive.

B. South and east of BBN on either side / on top of Birmingham Parkway. Looks quite massive.


Suggestion for housing mix:

30% low income
25% moderate income family.
25% graduate student housing.
20% market rate.


The following breakout is provided of size (I am uncertain if this includes the prior grouping):


150 townhouses - 2, 3, or 4 bedroom 2-story townhouses, stacked as pairs - townhouse buildings are 4 stories high.

14 apartment buildings, containing 500 one or two bedroom units - apartment buildings are 5 or 6 stories high; each floor with typically 5 or 6 units.


A massive destruction of a currently wild area and it just keeps going. They do not show how far it goes. It could go to Arsenal Street (extension in Watertown of Western Avenue), much of which, in turn, is now owned by Harvard.

2. New Bridges crossing Charles:

A. Extension of Longfellow Park. Longfellow Park is located in Cambridge between Brattle Street and Mt. Auburn St. It is essentially perpendicular to the Charles Ri ver and is separated from Memorial Drive only by a narrow strip of MDC land, although the narrowest part is slightly to the west. The Charles River parklands at this point are downright tiny.

B. Connection of JFK School to new campus north of Harvard Stadium, this would extend and connect to Elliot Bridge through new campus. The JFK School connection would be at the northwest corner and would extend through the 20 year old JFK park. At the point of connection to the river, it is not particularly far from the Longfellow Park extension / bridge.

C. Connection of Birmingham Parkway south / west of BBN to SFR east/north of Publik Theatre. This would create a mall to an extension of the William Smith Playground. My memory of this latter area is that it is the only natural area between Publik and the Elliot Bridge. It is near WBZ which is a lot more familar to most people than this end of the William Smith Playground, and I am not at all positive that the playground currently extends to Soldiers Field Road.

3. Harvard gets new buildings on MDC land between Elliot and Anderson Bridges on condition they consent to sharing some use with the public.

A. Peabody Museum moved to this new campus. Located in a direct line to Longfellow Park over new foot bridge.

B. New Harvard library with a Starbucks proposed opposite Elliot Bridge.

C. New Harvard Buildings to be placed between stadium buildings and Soldiers Field Road, apparently on at least part of SFR.

D. Two new Harvard buildings would be ON TOP of a tunneled North Harvard Street (extension of the Anderson / Harvard Bridge).

E. North Harvard Street would be buried to just south of Harvard Stadium, making this entire area Harvard campus. Similarly, Western Avenue and Cambridge Street would be buried to unify the Allston holdings.

4. River / Western / Cambridge Street Area

A. Buried to allow direct connection of portions of Harvard Campus. Western Avenue would be buried from WGBH to Western Avenue in Cambridge.

B. A new tunnel proposed under existing Western Avenue Bridge. All of this would connect in with a new park which is part of an upzoning in Cambridge’s Riverside neighborhood passed in 2003 for the benefit of Harvard.

C. The Cambridge Street tunnel would start at the beginning of the freight yard area and run to Guest Quarters Hotel in an area which is now Mass. Pike off ramps. This area currently includes the Mass. Pike off ramps.

D. More housing construction is proposed between Cambridge Street and the Mass. Pike from North Harvard Street to the beginning of the freight yard area. It could go “on the side of a hill that could be built over the Massachusetts Turnpike.”


This housing might have at least 350 units, though it could support a much higher density. Suggested housing mix (same as at the first housing site):

30% low income
25% moderate income family.
25% graduate student housing.
20% market rate.

Harvard would undoubtedly build additional student housing elsewhere on this hill.


E. The Mass. Pike and railroad yards would be covered with a “strong and high” roof to make it part of the Harvard campus. The railroad yards and ramps are owned by Harvard, as is the above housing area.

F. A new “Harvard hill” in this area would be created to hold the new Harvard campus. It, at its highest appears to be about five to six stories (50 to 60 feet) higher than the current ground level at the Charles River.

G. The elevated Mass. Pike would be buried.

H. Harvard now owns the Gemzyne building between Cambridge Street and Western Avenue.

I. Memorial Drive would be buried from Riverside Press Park and westward.

J. Four artificial puddles are proposed between Gemzyne and the Charles River.

K. Storrow Drive and Soldiers’ Field Road would be buried from the Charles Smith Playground / Publik Theatre area to a location just east of Massachusetts Avenue / the Harvard Bridge in Back Bay.

L. Harvard’s private property extends to about 500 feet west of the BU Bridge, stated in one location, 300 feet stated in another location..

5. Goose habitat / Grand Junction Railroad Bridge.

Map clearly shows

A. a new road through the woods to the east of the tracks / destroyed nesting area which would extend up the hill to Memorial Drive,

B. and another road to the railroad tracks as an extension of the one illegally constructed by BU in 1999.

These roadways would connect to a road on the western, presently unused half of the Grand Junction railroad bridge. On the Boston side it would be connected to the area covering Soldiers’ Field Road.

The exact description of this area must be taken with a very major grain of salt since the Cambridge Street plans would be impossible without moving the Mass. Pike exit to this bridge. That would entail the MBTA’s widening with three travel lanes and the move of the railroad track to the western, currently used track.