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Developer eyes another million square feet of labs, offices, and apartments for Harvard project

North Allston neighbors remain concerned about affordable housing

Developer Tishman Speyer envisions building a lively neighborhood across the street from Harvard Business School, as pictured in this conceptual rendering.Tishman Speyer

Now that Tishman Speyer is formally seeking city approval for its project on Harvard-owned land in Allston, the developer is also publicly sharing a concept for the back half of the property that would essentially double the size of the development.

Harvard University had set aside roughly half of its 14 acres at 100 Western Ave. for surface parking, behind 900,000 square feet of development. But Tishman Speyer has more ambitious plans than simply laying down some asphalt. Its preliminary proposal for the back half of the Enterprise Research Campus includes another 1 million square feet of construction in five buildings — three office/lab buildings and two residential ones, with a total of 420 apartments — along with some surface and underground parking and an acre of open space.


The information about the back half emerged during a neighborhood meeting with representatives from Harvard and Tishman Speyer on Tuesday night.

Harvard has already received the city’s approval of the broad framework for the seven-acre portion closest to Western Avenue. On that front portion, Tishman Speyer plans to develop a 250-room hotel, a conference center, two lab/office buildings totaling about 440,000 square feet, and two apartment buildings with a combined 330 units.

New York-based Tishman Speyer filed a letter of intent with the Boston Planning & Development Agency on Thursday for the building layout on the front half, with a goal of starting construction next year. The company has reconfigured that layout to allow for two acres of open space there, or roughly twice what was in Harvard’s earlier plans. In its letter, Tishman Speyer talked about how the open space could feature art exhibits, wellness classes, and festivals.

Tishman Speyer won one of the most sought-after development prizes in Boston just over a year ago when Harvard selected the company from a list of nearly 20 bidders to oversee development of the 14 acres, across from Harvard Business School, through a long-term lease agreement. The designation also puts Tishman Speyer in a prime position for when Harvard looks for private-sector help to develop the rest of its vast land holdings in Allston. Harvard’s long-term goal is to create another Kendall Square, a high-tech hub of innovation.


Residents of North Allston, though, are worried about gentrification and are pressing Harvard and Tishman Speyer to do more for affordable housing. Tishman Speyer has committed to exceeding the city mandate, a requirement that at least 13 percent of the units be set aside for affordable rents, but has not said how far above that threshold it will go. The goal for many Allston residents is to get that affordable portion up to 20 percent, at least.

Residents also want to see some home-ownership units built; Tishman Speyer’s plan currently calls for rental apartments only.

Anthony D’Isidoro, head of the Allston Civic Association, said the plans for all this acreage need to reflect the community’s vision, as well as Harvard’s and Tishman Speyer’s.

“Harvard University, in all fairness, is still playing defense when it comes to affordable homeownership,” D’Isidoro said during the Tuesday meeting. “I look forward to listening to Harvard [about] how they plan to address that serious need in our community. They certainly have the resources to do it.”

After the meeting, Harvard spokeswoman Brigid O’Rourke issued a statement saying the university supports a number of programs to preserve and create affordable housing in the city. Among them: tens of millions invested in the Harvard Local Housing Collaborative, $3 million to the All Bright Home Ownership Program, and a 20-unit project under construction at 90 Antwerp St. in which most of the condos will be affordable.


Developing the 14 acres off Western Avenue is not dependent on realigning the Massachusetts Turnpike through Allston, a $1 billion-plus project that still faces design questions and funding challenges. However, Harvard may need that project to unlock another 22 acres near the existing Mass. Pike ramps, as well as about 100 acres southeast of Cambridge Street in the former Beacon Park railyard, where a new commuter rail station is planned.

Jon Chesto can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.