Campus & Community

House renewal supports local economy

4 min read

Harvard construction to bring thousands of jobs, millions of dollars to Cambridge

Harvard University today announced plans to undertake a wide-ranging construction program that will result in the creation of nearly 3,600 local construction jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new local economic activity while ultimately funneling approximately $10 million into Cambridge city coffers in permitting fees alone.

Specifically, Harvard is launching the long-planned effort to renew its undergraduate House system, which forms one of the most distinctive and important features of a Harvard College education.

“We’re pleased that the renewal of Harvard’s undergraduate Houses will not only preserve and extend an indelible part of a Harvard College education, but that in doing so, we will help boost the local and regional economy by fostering new jobs and significant permitting revenues for the city,” said Christine Heenan, vice president of Government, Community & Public Affairs.

More than 98 percent of Harvard College students live on campus. First-year students live in freshman dorms, located in and around Harvard Yard.  The overwhelming majority of sophomores, juniors, and seniors live in one of 12 Houses, which are located alongside the Charles River or on the Radcliffe Quad, along Garden Street.

House Renewal, as the project is known on campus, will focus first on the original neo-Georgian Houses along the Charles, most of which were constructed in the 1920s and ’30s and have been little upgraded since. A first “test project” is already under way on the Old Quincy section of Quincy House and another is slated to begin in June 2013, with construction on the McKinlock Hall section of Leverett House.

Local economic benefits

Renewal of the neo-Georgian Houses is currently projected to cost more than $1 billion.  Approximately 60 percent of the construction expense will go toward labor costs, which largely consist of wages paid directly to workers on the project.

In total, nearly 3,600 local construction jobs are expected to be created over the life of the project. All major construction trades — such as laborers, carpenters, and plumbers — will have a role. The University is also party to a project labor agreement, ensuring that the construction will be performed by union workers.

In addition to construction jobs and payments to local and regional vendors, the project is expected to provide up to $10 million for the city of Cambridge in the form of permit fees.

“In addition to direct payments to construction workers, vendors, and the city of Cambridge, House Renewal will provide significant indirect economic benefits to local businesses, ranging from workers frequenting local restaurants and retailers to police details to help safeguard the public as construction occurs,” Heenan said.

Renewing Harvard’s undergraduate Houses

In announcing the launch of House Renewal, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith and Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds noted the importance of the House system while detailing plans for the coming years.

“In today’s plugged-in, always-on world, the kind of connection between people that is afforded by the House system is a truly precious resource,” said Smith. “The Houses have been and must continue to be carefully curated communities, evolving as our students and the world around them changes. As we change the buildings to meet the current and future needs of our students and programs, we recommit ourselves to Harvard’s House system, a truly life-changing institution rooted in people and what they can learn from each other. The Houses are the heart of the student experience at Harvard.”

Smith and Hammonds recounted the plans for the two test projects at Quincy House and Leverett House and announced plans to begin the renewal of the first full House — Dunster House — in June 2014.

University implements original plan to convert
Inn at Harvard to institutional use

Harvard also announced plans to use the Harvard-owned facility now containing the Inn at Harvard as the hub of “swing housing” for students temporarily displaced by construction on their particular House. When built in 1991, the facility was intended to be used as a hotel until it was converted to University use. The property is operated by an independent contractor under a contract specifically designed to enable the University to convert it to institutional use with 12 months’ notice.

Consistent with that plan, the hotel will close by July 2013, and alterations will be made to the facility during the following year to enable it to support students, including student beds, a dining hall, and other social and program spaces that are integral parts of every House. The first students will move into the facility in the fall of 2014.

Contact: Jeff Neal