Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Harvard’s empire in Allston, across the Charles River from Cambridge, takes another step with filing of zoning plans

1. Introduction.
2. Harvard Gazette. Details from press release.
3. Harvard Magazine. Extended background analysis.

1. Introduction.

Harvard University has filed zoning plans for the Charlesgate Housing site at North Harvard and Western in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, a couple of blocks or so from the Charles River and Harvard Square.

Charlesgate Housing is a 40 year old subsidized housing project which is being subjected to a forced move by Harvard University.

Harvard bought the rather good neighborhood shopping center two blocks from the project and turned almost all of it into a ghost town by failing to rent stores as the tenants vacated. To no great surprise, the owners of Charlesgate “voluntarily” agreed to sell and to move the housing to the site of 7 to 10 former stores. These stores formerly included a K mart, an OfficeMax, a package store, and other such facilities. They were the equivalent of an entire strip mall in the far, western end of the shopping center. These stores were emptied by Harvard.

A Shaw’s Market in the southern portion of the shopping center remains in a smaller building. It has been downsized into a Shaw’s related Star Market facility. A MacDonald’s on the northern / Western Avenue end has been rebuilt to fit into the new configuration. One other building containing, I believe, a pet store, on the nearest, northeast corner, also remains.

Construction in this part of Allston is of major importance to those concerned about the Charles River because the distance varies from a short one block distance to a distance equal to about two blocks.

The environmental problems and attacks on the Charles River White Geese seem to be directly related to plans for relocating Harvard Medical School to the Allston project area, to the Allston off ramps of the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Beacon Railroad Yards.

These facilities were purchased by Harvard months after a transit study determined that an off ramp to Cambridge could be built from the Massachusetts Turnpike over the Grand Junction Railroad Bridge which in turn leads to key areas next to the Destroyed Nesting Area of the Charles River White Geese.

The future Harvard Medical School and related facilities is visible from the Magazine Beach playing fields. It is the eastern end of the possible Allston projects. It is about equal in size to Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

2. Harvard Gazette. Details from press release.

The Harvard Gazette, an official organ of the University reported on December 19, 2012, that Harvard’s agent had formally filed its plans with the Boston Redevelopment Agency, Boston’s equivalent of a zoning board.

This report, in turn, linked a press release dated December 17, 2012. This is Harvard’s version of the situation:

The press release includes the following key paragraph:


The Project consists of the construction of two buildings with residential uses on the upper floors, residential, amenity and retail uses on the ground floor, and parking in the basement. The north building ranges from seven to nine stories in height and is located along a newly created road within the project site. The south building is six stories tall and has frontage on Western Avenue, North Harvard Street, and a second new road within the project site and bordering Smith Field.

3. Harvard Magazine. Extended background analysis.

Harvard Magazine’s report, another house organ, posted about a week ago, has quite a bit of detail, plus a good map at This is their January - February 2013 issue.

The lead paragraph gives an apparently good description based on a document filed in October 2012:


Harvard’s October filing of a new Institutional Master Plan Notification Form (IMPNF), describing projects it hopes to build in Allston during the next decade, marked the formal withdrawal of the grandiose plans for a new campus described in a similar submission in January 2007. Gone are the reconfigured bridges over the Charles River, the new undergraduate Houses, the 10 million square feet of building space, and the performing-arts pavilion at Barry’s Corner. In the vicinity of the latter, a parking lot is now contemplated for the construction vehicles used to build the mix of housing, retail, and athletic facilities that administrators are proposing for the land Harvard began quietly acquiring in 1988, 25 years ago. Later, a mixed-use institutional building is slated to rise on the southernmost portion of the Charlesview apartments site. (Harvard planners, comparing the new IMPNF to the former one in meetings with the Allston community during the past 18 months, have characterized its proposals as practical, noting their greatly reduced scope, geography, and time frame—a decade, rather than the 50-year vision detailed in 2007.)


[The report continues through a number of paragraphs.]