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With Harvard Allston Campus Construction Underway, Residents Complain of Traffic, Lack of Communication

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With construction on the first phase of Harvard’s Enterprise Research Campus entering its sixth month, Allston residents voiced criticisms of the development and the impact it will have on the neighborhood.

Construction on Phase A of Harvard’s campus expansion began in late June after the Boston Planning and Development Agency unanimously approved the development plan in July 2022. The approval came just two days after a breakthrough agreement between Harvard and Boston officials to guarantee that 25 percent of housing created as part of the development would be affordable.

But residents continue to have reservations about the impact the development will have on housing prices, transit infrastructure, and broader changes to the neighborhood character — a concern that has become particularly visible to residents as large construction vehicles and towering cranes have come to inhabit Allston’s streets and skies.

Allston Civic Association President Anthony D’Isidoro said construction trucks have not been keeping to agreed-upon routes that were intended to minimize disruption to residents.

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“There’s always the complaints about construction trucks being on streets that they shouldn’t be on because there were approved routes,” D’Isidoro said. “They just did a big concrete pour, but then so many hundreds of trucks were involved.”

University spokesperson Amy Kamosa and ERC developer Tishman Speyer did not respond to requests for comment on complaints by local residents.

Allston resident Aji A. Sjamsu said the trucks have been inconvenient and brought noise to the area.

“It makes things more inconvenient for just randomly getting from one place to another within my neighborhood,” he said. “My dog is kind of easily spooked. So he doesn’t like to walk near the loud vehicles.”

Alphonse Anzalpi, who has lived in Allston for nearly seven decades, said the cranes rising over the ERC construction site and other developments in the neighborhood were an eyesore.

“It totally ruined a beautiful neighborhood that was all filled with families,” Anzalpi said of Harvard’s expansion into Allston. “It’s all students. People don’t care about the properties anymore because they’re getting big money for the rent.”

“I think it stinks what they did to our neighborhood, and they keep growing and the rats keep coming,” he added.

Located just beside the Harvard Science and Engineering Complex, the 900,000-square-foot development is set to consist of residential space, offices, labs, a hotel and conference center, and retail and restaurant areas, per developer Tishman Speyer.

Harvard owns roughly a third of Allston, much of that land being vacant parking lots and unused buildings. The University has committed to using some of this land to provide housing for residents and has also committed $25 million to an affordable housing fund for Allston and Brighton.

While the ERC will repurpose vacant parking lots and offer income-restricted housing options, some Allston residents have expressed concerns about their role in shaping outcomes relating to the ERC and their neighborhood.

For some residents, like Kevin M. Carragee, the co-president of Brighton’s Hobart Park Neighborhood Association, Harvard’s efforts to engage in conversations with Allston-Brighton residents have felt largely superficial.

“Have there been many meetings? Oh, my God, yes,” Carragee said. “But, you know, in terms of substantive dialogue, where the University shows real substantive capacity to modify its plans in line with community needs and community desires, I still think there’s a gap.”

Brian Burke, a business owner and resident who has lived in Allston for 20 years, said he has also experienced difficulties communicating with Harvard and the developers.

“They don’t return calls,” Burke said. “I call them with ideas or suggestions or things around here.”

Harvard’s commitment to build 25 percent affordable housing in Phase A of the ERC — nearly twice what Boston requires as part of its Inclusionary Housing Policy — has done little to allay resident concerns about the ERC’s impact on already-high rents in the neighborhood.

“They take everything off the market,” Burke said of Harvard’s property purchases. “They’re raising up the rates for all the rents around the area. Regular people can’t live here anymore. There was an Irish neighborhood at one time. It’s gone.”

Harvard and Tishman Speyer had initially proposed making 17 percent of the housing units in Phase A affordable and 20 percent of those in Phase B — though efforts by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 and her administration led the developers to increase that guarantee.

“Pressure from the Wu administration raised that number,” Carragee said. “It was unfortunate that it took so long for Harvard to make those moves, and it only made those moves because of opposition from the community, and that strikes me as a contradiction to the social justice mission at the university.”

According to D’Isidoro, the agreement is a step in the right direction — though he said Harvard still needed to do more to earn residents’ trust.

“It’s a work in progress,” D’Isidoro said. “There’s more mutual respect and a little bit more trust between the parties than there has been in the past but I also know that that could, that can be very soft in the sense of, you know, what's coming in the future.”

Anna Leslie, the director of the Allston Brighton Health Collaborative, said she believes the ERC has the potential to greatly benefit the surrounding area.

“The benefits could be affordable, accessible, quality housing,” Leslie said. “For families, the benefits could be a much more efficient and reliable transportation system. The benefits could be many more locally sourced jobs within a 15-minute commute.”

“I think that’s entirely up to the people at the table,” she added. “The bigger challenge is that there are people who don’t know they need to be at the table or don’t want to be at the table.”

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