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Harvard lays out plans for new home for the A.R.T.

Harvard University plans to build a new home for the American Repertory Theater and a 14-story apartment tower for graduate students, faculty, and staff at 175 N. Harvard St. in Allston.Haworth Tompkins and Marvel

For years, the American Repertory Theater hasn’t had a dedicated rehearsal space, sending cast and crew to theaters in Boston and New York to rehearse their award-winning musicals and productions.

With the A.R.T.’s newly proposed center in Allston, that’s set to change.

Harvard University this week filed plans with the city of Boston for both a new A.R.T. and a 14-story apartment tower for Harvard graduate students on property it owns along North Harvard Street in its burgeoning Allston campus. Harvard announced plans to relocate the theater from its existing home on Brattle Street in Harvard Square in early 2019, following a $100 million gift from David E. and Stacey L. Goel.


“Though it was a state‐of ‐the‐art building when it was designed, it currently lacks access for patrons and artists and no longer meets the standards of excellence for theater practice, and by extension, the overall vision for the future of the A.R.T.,” Harvard wrote in its Nov. 30 filing to the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

Harvard proposes razing a one-story brick office at 175 N. Harvard St., up the street from Harvard Stadium and a stone’s throw from the newly built Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, to make way for the new A.R.T. and apartment building. The performance center would face North Harvard Street, while the 14-story, 264-unit apartment building for Harvard graduate students, faculty, and staff would face Smith Field along South Campus Drive.

At three stories and 68,000 square feet, the new A.R.T. would include two fully flexible performance venues — a larger auditorium with room for 700 seated patrons or 1,000 standing, along with a smaller theater with room for 300 seats or 400 standing patrons — that can be configured for different performances, such as a theatre-in-the-round. A.R.T. views the new facility as a center for community, research, and performance, with an outdoor performance yard and other gathering spaces, along with rehearsal and classroom space, a kitchen for food and beverage operations, scenic assembly and costume shops, dressing rooms, and administrative offices.


The bike pavilion off Ivy Lane at Harvard's proposed new home for the American Repertory Theater and 14-story apartment building in Allston.Marvel

Not many regional theaters have the chance to design and create a bespoke facility, said A.R.T. executive director Kelvin Dinkins Jr. The organization sees its new home as a chance to expand the definition of what theater, community programming, and live performance can be.

“What a new center means — it’s a gift. It really is a gift, in the best sense of the word,” he said.

The apartment tower, meanwhile, would have 264 units dedicated to Harvard graduate students, faculty, staff, and their families.

While Harvard provides housing for nearly all of its undergraduate students, it only has room to house roughly half of its full-time graduate student population. Both Boston and Cambridge have been pushing universities in recent years to build more student housing to ease pressure on the local rental market.

Harvard University Housing, which manages housing for graduate students, faculty, and staff, operates about 2,900 units and 120 dormitory rooms in Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville. Around 700 are in Allston, mostly near the Harvard Business School campus. Turnover for the portfolio is about 50 percent every year, Harvard said, and “demand typically exceeds supply on a four to one ratio,” Harvard wrote in its recent filing to the city.


The apartment complex would include a number of formal and casual meeting areas, “to foster a sense of community and support” within the building. Other amenities would include wellness and fitness rooms and lounges for studying and socializing, along with a 75-space underground parking garage. Harvard plans for 92 inside bike parking spots, and 222 outdoor bike spots, within the two buildings.

Architectural Resources Cambridge, Haworth Tompkins Ltd., Marvel, and Stephen Stimson Associates form the project’s design and architecture team.

The existing one-story building at 175 N. Harvard St. is at the edge of Boston’s recently rezoned Western Avenue corridor, where a number of large-scale lab and residential projects are planned, though the Harvard property was not included as part of that study area.

Catherine Carlock can be reached at Follow her @bycathcarlock.