continued (page 2 of 2)
Does Harvard take over any public property?
This drawing does show some places where
Harvard might be allowed to build above streets owned by the
City of Boston, most notably above the proposed cut-and cover
tunnel of North Harvard Street in Allston between Harvard
Business School and their athletic area, but also above parts
of Western Ave and Cambridge Street in Allston.
Otherwise, in this drawing there is one and only one area
where it is suggested that Harvard be given a very long-term
lease of public parkland: only upon the public land that is
presently the roadway intersection along the north end of
the Soldiers Field (not any of the existing pedestrian land
The notion here is that Harvard may feel these two particular
parcels of land - atop the north end of North Harvard Street,
and at the north end of Soldiers Field - are exceptionally
desirable for their campus expansion (for instance additional
undergraduate campus) because both are especially near Harvard
Square. Harvard may be willing to consider undertaking many
projects for the public benefit in exchange for permission
to build new campuses in these locations.
Soldiers Field Road between the Herter Center/William E. Smith
Playground, the Anderson Bridge and the Eliot Bridge is a
special condition of this drawing. The campus shown on the
drawing keeps all new buildings behind the edge of the present
roadway, so that no land presently for non auto use is lost
- only land that is presently used as road way and median
strips. Harvard would be permitted to build a new campus on
this land only after making formal agreements with the public
sector like the following:
- All lawns and paths would be public
ways. The public can sunbathe, picnic, play Frisbee, have
pets, take a nap, and just be there.
- Harvard would either finance the maintenance
or simply maintain this part of the public park system.
- Harvard would relocate at least one of
their museums there - for instance the Peabody and Natural
History Museums with glass flowers and dinosaurs - and would
make this relocated museum free to the public.
- Harvard would build a performance area
there, with a certain minimum number of free public performances
- Harvard would build an addition to their
library system there, and it would be open to the public.
(Presently, while MIT's libraries are open to the public,
Harvard's are not.)
- Harvard would build and maintain community
tutoring facilities and programs there, perhaps run with
the Phillips Brooks house and other local non-profits. The
programs might also be for mentoring or counseling neighborhood
people. Parts of Harvard's Extension School could also be
- The drawing shows underground access to
an enormous underground parking lot beneath the Harvard
athletic fields and this proposed new campus. Harvard would
make a significant part of this parking lot free for the
public and provide free shuttle-van service to surrounding
places. (Incidentally, this underground parking lot also
provides all vehicular services to the buildings above.)
- Harvard would maintain a reasonably priced,
publicly accessible food-court in one of their new buildings,
and of course a coffee shop (with comfortable seats and
- However possible, Harvard would make this
part of their campus particularly welcoming of the public
and would participate in a public yearly review with the
public of how they were doing.
On the other hand, if Harvard wanted to build
one or two new undergraduate Houses in this area, perhaps
fenced enclosures of up to two smaller quadrangles could be
negotiated. (Harvard's undergraduate Houses in Cambridge are
often organized around an enclosed yard: There are two pairs
of buildings shown on the drawing that would lend themselves
to this possibility - both just to the west of the large central
lawn that is aligned with Longfellow Park in Cambridge (aligned
with the western one of the two new pedestrian bridges shown
across the Charles).
Further, Harvard currently owns almost enough land between
four existing athletic buildings (Blodgett, Briggs, Dillon,
and Palmer-Dixon) and Soldiers Field Road to comfortably build
several residential or academic buildings there. But the new
buildings would be unpleasant without Soldiers Field Road
being removed. Two of the existing athletic buildings have
no windows facing the Charles, and only one – the Dillon
Field House – is a pleasant sight from the Cambridge
side. This is an obvious place for additional campus buildings.
Diagrammatic building outlines were shown at this location
in the drawing.
In total the drawing shows the potential for 30 new campus
buildings between the Eliot Bridge and the Business School,
either academic or housing, totaling a little over 1. 5 million
square feet, if the average building were four stories high
with one basement level.
Are there any other
things required of Harvard?
This is only one vision of many.
If Harvard's leaders were eager to build this tunnel they
might be willing to make certain other concessions. They might
agree to a very long moratorium on new construction and land
acquisition in parts of Cambridge, Allston, Brighton and around
the Medical School. Harvard has faced the specter of such
restrictions, has even proposed building moratoriums in parts
of Cambridge, and has already entered into agreements to limit
their growth for specified time lengths in parts of Cambridge.
(For instance in a recent agreement between Harvard and the
Riverside neighborhood of Cambridge, Harvard agreed to growth
limits in that neighborhood for the next 25 years. Harvard
has also just made a similar agreement with the Agassiz neighborhood
There may be other things that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
cities, non-profits, or neighborhoods in Cambridge or Boston
might request. One obvious example: Harvard University already
makes annual payments to both the City of Boston and the City
of Cambridge; each is called a "Payment in Lieu of Taxes"
(PILOT for short). The amount of their PILOT payment could
of course be renegotiated, but there may be more important
things to request.
How much might a
tunnel like this cost?
Difficult question. Since the initial cost
estimates of the Big Dig proved to be off by a factor of four,
who would trust anyone's estimate of this? Still, if the tunnel
costs $1 million per foot then the whole thing might cost
over $17 billion. If the tunnel costs $1 million per yard
then the total cost would be over $5 billion, and if the per
yard cost were $333,333 , then the final bill might be $1.7
billion. The higher figure seems more likely.
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