Campus & Community

Turnpike Board Approves Harvard Land Bid

3 min read

With land in Cambridge at a premium, Harvard University is looking southward to meet its long-term needs for additional space.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA) Board on Wednesday, July 12 voted unanimously to select Harvard as the highest responsible bidder to purchase a 48-acre parcel in Allston. The bids were opened at the MTA offices in Boston on June 29. Harvard’s $151,751,636 bid was partially symbolic, with the last four digits representing the year the University was founded.

The bid price was determined following conversations involving Harvard officials and faculty members from a number of schools. In addition, commercial appraisers were consulted to assess the property’s value to for-profit and institutional developers.

Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine calls the pending acquisition a “tremendous opportunity in the long term to help the University fulfill its broad and challenging academic mission. We also look forward to continuing our constructive discussions with our Allston neighbors and the City of Boston as we seek to craft a shared vision for how this space might be used in the most mutually beneficial fashion.”

“This property greatly enhances the University’s ability to think more flexibly about its future. When added to the land Harvard already owns in the area, it should allow for a broad range of activities, much like the Cambridge campus,” says Sally Zeckhauser, Harvard University Vice President for Administration.

The parcel, which borders Western Avenue and Soldiers Field Road, and includes a 10-acre strip of land south of Cambridge Street, is currently owned by the Turnpike Authority. Much of the property is used for a variety of transportation and industrial functions. Tenants include Genzyme, CSX Corporation, and WGBH. The deal includes a provision allowing Boston University an option to purchase the 10-acre lot in the future.

MTA Board Chairman Andrew Natsios characterizes the sale as beneficial for both the state and the University. “This is a substantial increase in the amount of land for Harvard, so they win. Harvard University will be here in 50 years, 100 years, even 500 years. It’s not moving and it’s landlocked [The MTA] also has a limited amount of land to sell and [Harvard was] willing to buy it as is,” he said.

Considering its location just south of the Harvard Business School, the land holds great potential to further the University’s critical teaching and research mission, while also allowing the opportunity for Harvard to work with the neighborhood to improve the area. No specific development plans have been outlined.

Any future development would proceed only after extensive internal planning and deliberation as well as consultation with interested parties, local governmental bodies, and neighborhood groups including the Harvard University Allston Community Task Force. Representatives from a number of Harvard’s faculties are already involved in the process of crafting a vision for the Allston properties through the University’s Physical Planning Committee.

Harvard’s involvement with Allston dates back to the days of the horse and buggy when, in 1890, 31 acres of athletic grounds were dedicated as Soldiers Field. Harvard Stadium was completed in 1903, and other athletic facilities were added later along with the Business School. In 1997, Harvard announced the purchase of an additional 52 acres of industrial and commercial property in Allston. Including the latest purchase of the MTA parcel, Harvard’s holdings in Allston total about 240 acres.