Campus & Community

Allston update letter

4 min read

Dear Colleagues, Friends and Neighbors:

I am writing today to update you on our plans for development in Allston.

For the past three years, we have been actively planning the Allston Science Complex, our first major Allston development beyond the Business School and athletic facilities. We now find ourselves, like the rest of the country, facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and dramatically altered financial circumstances. An unprecedented drop in our endowment and pressure on every other source of income have forced a careful review of all of our capital planning projects, including the Allston Science Complex and future Allston projects.

In light of these changed circumstances, I asked our financial and capital planning teams to assess our options with regard to the complex. While this assessment moves forward, construction will continue at a slower pace through this calendar year as we finish the first phase of construction, which involves completing the building’s foundation and bringing the structure to ground level. This work would be necessary regardless of what our assessment of building plans might yield.

During this time, we will rigorously review the project, including calling on any experts that may be required to work with us in assessing the building design and developing a detailed cost analysis. As we approach the end of the current construction phase, we will examine whether economic conditions are enough improved to allow us to continue construction, or whether to reconfigure the building in ways that yield either new cost savings or new space realization, or whether we need to pause construction. Any decision will, of course, depend on our ability to proceed without compromising the University’s long-term financial health, and any decision will engage our academic community, the City of Boston, and the Allston Task Force in any necessary changes.

While we hope that affirmative answers to these questions will enable continued construction, if at a slower pace, we must also prepare for the possibility that the economic outlook will continue to be both bleak and volatile. If we must pause construction above ground, our planning and development team will work with the City of Boston to ensure that both safety and aesthetic concerns are addressed.

Harvard intends to honor commitments it made to the Allston community and the City of Boston as part of the construction of the Allston Science Complex. In particular, we will work with the City of Boston and with the community directly to deliver community benefits that were previously agreed upon, including the programs of the Harvard Allston Education Portal and Library Park.

Although long-term planning for other Allston development will continue, it will occur at a slower pace and our broader plans for developing the Allston campus are delayed. I have instructed the University’s planning team to develop options for interim improvements to Harvard’s existing properties, and to continue to support community improvement efforts in Allston-Brighton.

Harvard’s 50-year vision for Allston is undiminished, regardless of these short-term challenges. Allston is vital to Harvard’s long-term future. Over time, we envision a campus of buildings, pathways, and green spaces with a variety of academic and research uses, from graduate schools to science laboratories to space for arts and culture activities. We believe the realization of this vision will greatly enhance the Allston community, Harvard generally, and the University’s role as a leader in many fields of academic inquiry.

Harvard’s commitment to scientific collaboration and research is similarly undiminished. We have developed plans in conjunction with those interdisciplinary science program leaders who had expected to move to Allston in 2011 to sustain their momentum by outfitting new laboratory space in Cambridge and Longwood.

We greatly appreciate the time invested in planning and discussion by neighbors, city leaders, and Harvard faculty, staff, and students in laying the groundwork for the Allston Initiative and we intend to continue with master planning and to participate in the city’s communitywide planning process. Despite the current economic turbulence and the resulting need to alter our plans in the near term, Harvard’s vision for Allston remains strong and our commitment continues unabated to planning and developing in ways that benefit the neighborhood, Boston, and the University.