Saturday, 2:15 PM
Harvard slowing Allston expansion, Faust announces
(Allston Development Group/file 2008)
An architectural rendering of Harvard University's proposed expansion in Allston.
By Tracy Jan, Globe Staff
Harvard University President Drew Faust announced today that the university will delay its expansion into Allston in response to the harsh economic reality, and may even pause construction on a massive $1 billion science complex that was slated for completion in 2011.
Harvard University President Drew Faust
In addition to clarifying Harvard’s plans in Allston, Faust also announced a 3.5 percent tuition increase for next year, bringing tuition to $33,696 and the total cost of a Harvard education – including room and board – to $48,868. At the same time, the university will increase need-based scholarships by 18 percent, she said.
Faust announcement comes amid a tough fiscal year during which Harvard’s once $36.9 billion endowment, which makes up more than a third of the university’s $3.5 billion operating budget, is projected to plummet 30 percent for 2008-2009.
“Such a significant decrease presents us with difficult tradeoffs. . . . Tinkering around the edges will not be enough,” Faust wrote in a letter to the Harvard community. “What is more, our conscious avoidance of ‘one size fits all’ solutions means that not everyone is going to be happy with every outcome.”
The science complex, touted as the cornerstone of Harvard’s presence in Allston, was to have housed the university’s new department of stem cell and regenerative biology and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, as well as the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Those highly touted projects will now be housed elsewhere, Faust said.
The stem cell institute and department will be relocated to renovated laboratory space on Harvard’s Cambridge campus. The Wyss Institute will straddle the Longwood medical campus and at a Cambridge location.
Allston residents have already voiced frustration about the vacant Harvard-owned lots and buildings dotting their neighborhood. Now, they say they must brace themselves for an undetermined length of construction before Harvard’s long-term vision of meandering pathways, parks, other academic buildings and arts and cultural spaces could be fulfilled.
“As a community, we have accepted living alongside all of Harvard’s vacant buildings and abandoned property for almost 10 years now,'' said Harry Mattison, a member of the Harvard Allston Task Force. "You can suck it up and take it when you think it’ll be a couple more years and all the water color drawings and pretty pictures will come true. But now this is what I may be looking at for the rest of my life.”
Construction on the 589,000-square foot science complex currently amounts to a giant hole in the ground. Harvard plans to complete the first phase of construction by laying the foundation but may halt above-ground construction until economic conditions improve.
“Although long-term planning for other Allston development will continue, it will occur at a slower pace and our broader plans for developing the Allston campus are delayed,” Faust wrote in a separate letter to the Allston community.
The university will also explore ways to reduce the cost through design changes, Faust said. The building was to be the first of two science complexes, but that second facility, as well as other projects in Allston are indefinitely on hold.
“No less than before, what we do in Allston remains a vital part of Harvard’s future,” Faust wrote. “While the economic downturn necessitates a chance of pace, we remain committed to a long-term vision of Allston that will take full advantage of the historic opportunity it represents.”