“Today we still speak of Allston and Cambridge,” Faust said. “Those who follow us will regard it as one campus for one university. We should think and talk about it in those terms.”
The university’s presence and development plans in Allston have been rife with controversies.
Harvard began pushing for an expansion in Allston in the late 1980s. In 1997, the school revealed it had spent $88 million to covertly buy 52 acres of land in the neighborhood, drawing an outcry from residents and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
The university agreed to pay the city millions in lieu of taxes for its exempt property and tried to reshape its image as a good neighbor.
But Harvard continued to buy land and now owns 359 acres in Allston, nearly double the size of its Cambridge campus.
In late 2003, Harvard envisioned a massive 250-acre campus in Allston that included academic space, student housing, entertainment facilities, and the transformation of Barry’s Corner to replicate Harvard Square.
At the heart of the first phase of that 50-year plan was a 589,000 square-foot science center estimated to cost $1 billion.
The complex’s foundation was built, but in late 2009 construction was put on hold indefinitely as the university’s endowment was rocked by the recession, diving $11 billion, or 27 percent.
In the spring of 2011, the university began its first major project since then: a $20 million investment to convert a building into a laboratory for innovation and entrepreneurship. It opened that fall.
A month later, the university broke ground on a $100 million building that will be used primarily for housing on its business school campus. It is scheduled to open later this year.
As those two projects moved forward, Harvard announced it would take a dramatically different approach to expanding in Allston by dividing its vision into smaller projects and working with outside developers and investors in an effort to ease the university’s financial risk.
The university announced this past summer that it expects to resume work on the science complex next year. The building would contain between 500,000 and 600,000 square feet of space for a state-of-the-art health and life sciences laboratory, research, classrooms, and areas to foster collaborative innovation, officials have said.
This past fall, Harvard unveiled a 10-year master plan framework for Allston, featuring nine new projects, including a new basketball arena, a refurbished football stadium, a hotel and conference center, and new business school buildings.
In December, a private developer unveiled detailed plans to build a 350,000-square-foot retail and residential development on land owned by Harvard in Barry’s Corner. That proposal is under city review. The developer hopes to start construction on the two-year project this coming fall.