Friday, January 12, 2007

Harvard in Allston

Over the past 10 years Harvard has purchased a huge swath of Allston (roughly 200 acres) and they have just revealed their master plan for it. They're going to bury a chunk of soldier's field road and create a usable greenway on the Charles River and create a mixed use retail area designed to be a new Harvard Square. Looks like there is a ton of green space all along the river in the form of parks and athletic fields. Somerville is sorely lacking in green space, so I'm a little jealous. All they need is a T-Stop and it could be really cool.

There is of course some concern about such a large project and what the results would be for Allston. An huge chunk of their city would be owned and developed by one entity. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. I grew up amidst a large chunk of Harvard and for the most part it was pretty unnoticeable to me as a child and a teenager. Harvard people aren't the greatest to have around. They're obnoxious and arrogant or they're unbelievably cool. I've never met a harvard person I didn't love. Or completely despise. There's not a lot of middle ground with them.

Anyhow, back to Allston. Here's some stuff to think about: Harvard keeps all its outdoor spaces really maintained and anybody can walk through them. They're also quite safe to walk through 24/7. They do close them to the public twice a year for Harvard Graduation and one other weird thing they have to do so that the land doesn't revert to the city. (some Cambridge blue-law I think) A lot of their building lobbies are open to the public so it's really easy to find a clean restroom if you know where to look. Try doing that in downtown Boston. Until Eric is completely potty trained (we're at 95%) I just can't take him downtown.

If somebody is going to go in and develop your city, which is inevitable this close to Boston. It's better to have an entity with a livable scheme for live-work spaces than a developer who's main goal is to just make money and get out. Harvard wants to create the most usable, functional space it can. I think we should approach these plans with an open mind. Remember, without the colleges, we're just Springfield on the Charles.


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