On hold

Harvard's campus expansion plans dashed

by Sharon McHugh 13 December 2009
Just as we learned Columbia University had lost its battle to expand into West Harlem, another prominent US school, Harvard University, announced Thursday it is mothballing construction of its $1 billion Science Center, designed by Behnisch Architekten. The building is the centerpiece and first in a series of projects of a sweeping campus expansion plan in nearby Allston where the University owns 350 acres. The campus masterplan, created by Cooper Robertson & Partners, Frank Gehry and the Olin Partnership, calls for four to five million sq ft of new facilities including academic spaces, student housing, museum and performance spaces.

The economic downturn was the reason given for the moratorium. In a letter dated 10 December 2009, Harvard’s President Drew Faust, said: “The altered financial landscape of the University, and of the wider world, necessitates a shift away from rapid redevelopment in Allston”. Harvard plans to complete the foundations of the Science Center and bring it to ground level by the Spring 2010 where it will sit until the economic climate improves. As for the Allston campus initiative in general, the University said it would shift its focus away from construction and to readying the buildings it owns there for long term leasing.

News of the stalled project did not sit well with neighbourhood residents who are demanding a timetable. One such resident, Harry Mattison, told a reporter for WBUR, Boston’s public radio station, that the construction site is a dump and he feels his neighbourhood is being held hostage by Harvard. “Harvard brought all of this land. Harvard created this situation that we are in now, how are we going to find our way out? Both in 50 years and 100 years, but also today while we are still here.”

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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