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    Harvard plan for Allston research campus gets boost from city agency

    Construction on a Harvard University science and engineering building in Allston, near the university’s planned Enterprise Research Campus.
    Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
    Construction on a Harvard University science and engineering building in Allston, near the university’s planned Enterprise Research Campus.

    A massive business campus that one day could be Harvard University’s answer to Kendall Square took a key step forward Thursday evening.

    The Boston Planning & Development Agency approved a master plan for the first phase of Harvard’s planned Enterprise Research Campus in Allston, which will cover 14 acres. The university aims to start on the broader 36-acre project with 900,000 square feet of office space, housing, and hotel rooms along Western Avenue on former railyards and industrial land.

    The campus is still in its early stages, but Harvard spokesman Kevin Casey said it’s a bid to draw innovative businesses to the doorstep of both Harvard Business School and a huge science and engineering facility Harvard is building up the street.


    “It’s not just going to be any companies” that move to the site, Casey said. “It’s going to be organizations that have a thirst to be near entrepreneurial activity.”

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    The plan, which was launched publicly in November, is only a broad outline, and that caused neighbors – and some BPDA board members – to worry about how Harvard will deal with issues like transportation and affordable housing. Several neighborhood residents spoke at Thursday’s hearing, urging Harvard to slow down and fill in the details before it proceeds.

    The zoning could allow for a string of 200-foot-tall buildings, with unclear guidelines for what might occupy them, said Brighton resident Tim McHale.

    “We’re faced with a mini-metropolis here,” he said. “We want to know what we’re getting ourselves into.”

    More details will be forthcoming during the planning process, Casey promised. Harvard plans to work with private developers to propose and build individual buildings, each of which will undergo detailed study before they’re approved.


    “We think it’s necessary to come back with actual plans,” Casey said. “But we want to be clear that those issues are going to be on our minds.”

    That satisfied board members, for now. It voted 4-1 to approve the plan, while instructing Harvard to go back to neighborhood groups with more information.

    The Allston plan was one several major projects before the board Thursday evening.

    It was also set to vote on a plan to dole out $5 million in annual tax breaks to Amazon, in return for the company bringing 2,000 new jobs to the Seaport District.

    Also on the docket was a proposed condominium tower on Boylston Street, expansion of Hood Park in Charlestown, and redevelopment of the One Post Office Square building downtown.

    Tim Logan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.