Campus & Community

Center for Government and International Studies proceeds without beneficial tunnel:

2 min read

University, Mid Cambridge community organizations could not reach consensus

Map of Cambridge St,
Plans for the Center for Government and International Relations, now under construction, called for a tunnel connecting two buildings on either side of Cambridge Street. This plan shows a community park that Harvard agreed to donate to the city had the tunnel been approved.

The two buildings on either side of Cambridge Street comprising the new Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS) will not be linked by a tunnel. Despite lengthy negotiations and even a momentary agreement, representatives of Harvard and Mid Cambridge community organizations could not reach a consensus.

The planning process for the new CGIS facility has lasted more than six years, during which the University responded to concerns and suggestions of the neighborhood and various boards and commissions by significantly redesigning the project and by making the buildings smaller. Harvard agreed to plant nearly 200 trees, preserve and renovate five historic buildings, and enhance landscaped spaces. Additional benefits included the donation of University land for a neighborhood park, hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to neighborhood funds, limits on construction in the area, more extensive construction mitigation efforts, and a number of other community amenities, including allowing access to the buildings for community members. Community representatives rejected any plan, however, and subsequently the Cambridge City Council asked a doubling of benefits already offered, bringing the package requested to $10 million for a tunnel easement assessed at $280,000.

“Harvard put a lot on the table and we wish very much that the community had said yes,c said Mary Power, senior director of community relations, who has worked closely with residents during the planning process.

The project is now under construction. Despite the disappointment that the tunnel and additional benefits were not allowed to proceed, the new center will unify the Department of Government with international and social scientific research centers.