Campus & Community

Accord reached on Riverside zoning

3 min read

Milestone agreement brings benefits to city and neighborhood

Harvard and the city of Cambridge, following a unanimous vote from Cambridge city councilors, reached a milestone agreement this week regarding University development in Riverside.

The agreement outlines new zoning for several Harvard-owned properties in Riverside that will allow the University to build new housing for graduate students. As a part of the agreement, Harvard will build approximately 34 units of affordable housing for city residents on the sites and provide nearly an acre of new open space along the river at the corner of Western Avenue and Memorial Drive. The agreement establishes a shared future for the University, the city of Cambridge, and the neighborhood along the Charles River.

“This is a creative solution,” said David Maher, city councilor and co-chair of the city’s Ordinance Committee, who led the process that resulted in the mutually beneficial agreement. “It allows the city to accomplish its public policy objectives of creating open space on the river and affordable housing, while allowing Harvard to meet its housing needs for these sites.”

“We are very happy to have reached a resolution that will allow appropriate development of this land. This agreement allows us to meet the needs of the University in a way that respects and enhances the Riverside neighborhood,” said Kathy Spiegelman, chief university planner for Harvard University.

Following a long process in which a group of residents proposed down-zoning that Harvard could not support, the City Council worked with neighborhood residents and Harvard, ultimately supporting a negotiated package that was unanimously supported by the City Council at its Oct. 27 meeting.

The new zoning established a provision allowing higher development associated with community benefits that will allow Harvard to meet its graduate student housing objectives at Memorial Drive, Cowperthwaite, and Grant streets.

“This is a very positive resolution that marks the beginning of a new constructive relationship with this community following decades of tension,” said Mary Power, senior director of community relations, who has been an active part of the process. “While the process was long and at times arduous, mutual understanding has grown that has resulted in a strong outcome. This agreement came about thanks to the hard work of the council, city staff, neighborhood leaders, and Harvard representatives.”

Additional housing will help Harvard meet its goal of housing 50 percent of graduate, professional, and medical school students, which will support the University’s academic mission by allowing students to live near the places that they work and study. Additional housing also helps relieve pressure in the Cambridge housing market by taking students out of the private housing market.