Campus & Community

City board gives approval to Allston Science Complex plans

5 min read

Harvard University has received the approval from the Board of Directors of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), the city’s planning and economic development agency, for plans for the Harvard Allston Science Complex, the first new academic building of the University’s planned extended campus in Allston. Following completion of the zoning approval, construction can begin. Formal groundbreaking is expected to be in November.

The BRA board voted today (Oct. 3) in favor of the four-building complex, slated to become the new home of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and other emerging interdisciplinary scientific initiatives at Harvard. Overall, the complex will create 1 million square feet of new space for scientists and researchers.

The complex will be located on Western Avenue, just east of the intersection with North Harvard St., and is designed by Behnisch Architekten. The Stuttgart, Germany-based architects are internationally renowned for designing environmentally friendly buildings. Their world-class designs can be found around the globe, from Toronto to Dublin and from Munich to Moscow.

Designed to be one of the area’s premier models of sustainable development and “green” architecture, the project will voluntarily adhere to greenhouse gas emissions caps, producing only half of the greenhouse gas emissions of a typical laboratory building.

“I am proud that Boston will be home to Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute, where scientists from around the globe will come to seek cures through revolutionary medicine,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. The mayor also noted that the facility “will have profound medical and economic impacts on our city. Its timeliness and importance cannot be overstated.”

The announcement marks another important milestone in Harvard’s ongoing effort to create an extended campus in Allston that will develop over the next 50 years. Through the efforts in Allston, Harvard hopes to facilitate new methods of collaboration among different Faculties and departments across the University’s various parts.

“Today’s announcement marks a major milestone in the decades-long extension of our campus in Allston. Our efforts in Allston are a shared opportunity — an investment in the common future of an institution whose vitality depends on new intellectual connections, new spaces in which to work and live, new ways of engaging each other and our neighbors,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “As the process moves forward, we will continue to explore the opportunities that Harvard’s changing landscape offers to build strengthened relations with our neighbors both in Cambridge and Boston.”

It is estimated that new construction in Allston will create more than 800 new permanent jobs and up to 1,000 construction jobs in the area. Harvard has proposed a $25 million investment in Allston community programs and neighborhood enhancements over the next decade as part of the direct benefits associated with the Science Complex. The investment is centered around an educational partnership that will provide Allston residents access to community programs at Harvard, math and science tutoring for all school-age Allston children, and public science lectures. Harvard also will create new public open spaces, parks, and walkways, and support job training and housing initiatives in the neighborhood.

“Today marks the culmination of thousands of hours of work among our partners,” said Chris Gordon, COO for Allston Development. “We appreciate the dedication of the mayor, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Harvard Allston Task Force, community leaders, residents, and the many people at Harvard who have worked in partnership with us to help realize a project that will be beneficial to Harvard and the region.”

The Science Complex includes research and educational space in four buildings, with shared research support facilities below ground that includes parking space and a distributed energy facility to reduce the buildings’ energy use. There will be additional designated parking spaces directly across the street from the complex. The buildings are situated around a central courtyard designed to be welcoming and easily accessible for all pedestrians. The project also includes a series of public realm enhancements, such as improvements to sidewalks, roadways, and streetscapes.

The Allston Science Complex lays the foundation for the growth of a model sustainable campus in Allston. The building will be designed to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED gold standard and implement forward-looking sustainable strategies, such as:

• High performance building design that minimizes heating and cooling losses;
• Use of cogeneration and microgrid distribution of power, geothermal wells, solar chimneys, and other renewable energy strategies to heat and cool the buildings;
• Extensive natural day lighting to reduce energy demand;
• Sophisticated ventilation and building controls strategies, the careful selection of energy efficient equipment, and high performance building systems such as motors, fans, lights, pumps, freezers, and fume hoods.

The announcement comes after more than five years of academic and physical planning for an extended campus in Allston, and consultation through the city-appointed Harvard Allston Task Force, which includes community leaders from the Allston neighborhood. More than half of the 60-plus public meetings held over the past two years have been dedicated to discussions on the Allston Science Complex.

“We’re glad that the process by which the community could review all the significant aspects of this project, which include both the benefits and impacts to the community, have been successfully reviewed,” said Ray Mellone, chairman of the Harvard Allston Task Force. “We’re proud of the work that Allston and Harvard have accomplished together and look forward to the scientific, educational, and economic benefits this project will bring.”