Boston city planners approved the University’s largest development project in decades on Thursday. A total of nine buildings and more than 1.9 millionsquare feet; the project will compliment a science center and a mixed retail/housing facility that are already slated for construction.
The build-out includes a new basketball facility, 200-room hotel and a retail/office building (much like the Holyoke Center) as well as a renovation of the stadium and Soldiers Field Park graduate student housing.
In a message to the Allston community, University President Drew Faust said, “The program represents important progress towards the long-term vision of a more integrated, expansive, and lively presence for Harvard on both sides of the Charles.”
Currently, Harvard is the largest landowner in North Allston/Brighton with more than 341 acres, representing roughly 45.8% of the community north of the Massachusetts Turnpike. The University amassed the property through a multi-decade buy-up with plans on one day expanding into Boston.
The expansion was originally scheduled for 2007. However, construction was put on hold due to the recession – a decision for which the university has been heavily criticized. Project planning resumed in 2012 and after more than 20 community meetings and several edits of the Institutional Master Plan, the approval of the Boston Redevelopment Authority was a landmark moment. The expansion still requires a negotiation of a community benefits package for the neighborhood and a permitting process for the individual projects.
While construction is already underway for the science center, the projects approved on Thursday are expected to follow close on its heels.
Faust said, “ … the months and years ahead promise to be ones of exciting development and transformation in Allston.”