Campus & Community

Holyoke Center to upgrade security:

4 min read

New initiatives strike balance between safety and convenience

A security guard uses a long-handled mirror to check beneath a car at the Holyoke Center garage. (Staff photo by Jon Chase)

In the upcoming months, getting into the administrative offices in the Holyoke Center will take a little extra effort. But once there, employees and visitors will be much safer.

As a result of a thorough security analysis by risk consulting firm Kroll Inc., the Holyoke Center will more tightly control access to the upper floors of the building, which currently houses between 500 and 700 employees in more than 75 Harvard departments.

While the Holyoke Arcade will remain completely open to the hundreds of Harvard-affiliated and community patrons who visit its shops and restaurants daily, elevator and stairwell access to upper floors will be restricted to those with Harvard University IDs or registered visitors or delivery personnel.

“Our goal is increasing security but at the same time not having the building look like Fort Knox,” says Sharon Lembo of Harvard Planning and Real Estate, building manager of the Holyoke Center. “It’s a balancing act.”

Most significant among the changes, employees and University visitors to the Holyoke Center will need their Harvard IDs to gain access to elevators and stairways. Lembo says that her office will provide neck ribbons or belt clips to encourage employees to wear their IDs regularly.

Visitors to Holyoke Center offices will be greeted by building security at a new desk in the Arcade, where they will receive a self-expiring badge after showing a valid ID such as a driver’s license. Building occupants will notify security of expected guests in advance, possibly through a Web-based service, and unanticipated visitors will not be allowed access until the office they’re visiting grants approval. Similarly, unapproved delivery vendors will need to await clearance from the recipient of their deliveries.

Lembo notes that alternative policies will be implemented for offices that experience heavy traffic in unannounced visitors without Harvard IDs, such as the Harvard University Employees Credit Union, Human Resources, or the ID office.

“Obviously, people going to the ID office don’t have IDs,” she quips.

University Health Services, which has its own entrance, will be minimally affected.

Other security measures that will have less daily impact on most building occupants include putting bollards along the Massachusetts Avenue side of Forbes Plaza, where now nothing would stop a malicious motorist from veering off Mass. Ave. directly into the arcade, and screening cars that enter the garage beneath the Holyoke Center.

Reopened to the general public this fall after a year during which access was restricted to monthly pass holders and Harvard ID holders only, the garage now requires that users without a monthly parking pass have their cars visually screened. Pass-holders’ cars are screened at random.

A post-Sept. 11 reality

Like many aspects of daily living, concerns about building security changed after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Prior to that day, security at the Holyoke Center and elsewhere focused on locking down the building after employees left for the day, protecting the valuable assets within.

Now, says Lembo, keeping building occupants safe during the workday is as important as securing the building and assets at night. Indeed, interviewing many Holyoke Center tenants as part of the security analysis, she learned that most occupants will welcome the new measures.

“We found that people wanted more security,” she says, adding that those who came in early or worked late, in particular, felt that building security needed a boost.

While no measures can make the Holyoke Center or any other building completely invulnerable to harm, the upcoming changes bring the building in line with the best standards of security experts.

As changes roll out over the next few months, Lembo and the Harvard Planning and Real Estate team will continue to gather feedback from building occupants and will host a series of seminars aimed at helping employees adjust to the new measures. In addition, building occupants will learn how they can help keep their workplace safe.

Watch upcoming issues of the Harvard University Gazette for continuing information on new security measures in the Holyoke Center. Address questions and concerns about the changes to