Allston, Brighton Coalition Criticizes Harvard's Expansion Plans

Photo: WBZ NewsRadio / James Rojas

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Harvard University's development plans for their land in Allston faced scrutiny on Tuesday from a newly formed coalition representing the surrounding community.

The "Coalition for a Just Allston + Brighton" said in a statement that Harvard's current plans will cause "significant harm" to their community and mimic the problems and inequities of Boston's Seaport District, something they said is unaffordable and has exclusionary housing, inadequate public transportation, traffic congestion, and limited opportunity for local businesses.

"There's very few public communities there, a lack of public accessible space, and very little space for civic institutions like libraries, firehouses, and schools. It's a pretty exclusive, predominantly white neighborhood for those who can afford to live and work there," Boston City Councilor Liz Breadon told WBZ's James Rojas.

For Allston, Harvard owns one-third of the land there, and has considerable landholdings in Brighton, that totals to around 170 acres available for potential development, the CJAB said.

The Harvard Enterprise Research Campus Framework Plan for Allston read that it was consistent with the City of Boston's master plan that was named "Imagine Boston 2030," which stated that "a new center of innovation can flourish between Boston and Cambridge around a new West Station." The plan went on to say that opportunities were described for transit and transit-oriented development, housing, job growth, walkable streets and protected bike links, place making, and district storm water management.

But the CJAB said that their 19-page letter to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu emphasized the need for Harvard to shift their "current piecemeal approach" into something more comprehensive for their Allston development planning. The coalition also urged that Harvard ensure they build a "significant amount of housing" on their land, and make about a third of that income-restricted and available to those within the Area Median Income ranging from 30 to 80 percent.

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Other CJAB goals included the creation of an Allston-Brighton Community Land Trust funded by Harvard, a community design that addresses the climate crisis, a new expansive park system, improved public transportation with rail service between Boston Landing, new West and South Stations, and a partnership with Boston Public Schools.

Upon a request for comment from Harvard, the university shared with WBZ NewsRadio the letter they sent to Mayor Wu and other elected officials last month.

In that letter Harvard officials said that their intention is to "create and contribute to a district in Allston that the University, and our neighbors and the City of Boston can share and be proud of." The university said that a necessary element of their work is a collaboration with the City, local elected officials, and the Allston-Brighton community.

Harvard said their plan is to "respond to the important issues which have been raised in the last several months and throughout the public and community feedback process."

WBZ's James Rojas (@JamesRojasNews) reports.

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