The architects hired by Harvard University to study locating facilities in Allston have created an interim report, and it’s really nice. If Harvard really implements most of it, rather than getting cheap and cutting the more expensive pieces which improve quality of life, it sounds as though a really nice new campus might result. I’m pleasantly surprised, given Harvard’s lousy space policy decisions in the past.

The basic idea is to create new undergraduate Houses along the river, possibly in current athletic facilities, in the Business School buildings closest to the river, or some of the existing graduate housing. These houses would replace the Quad houses (which would probably become graduate housing, though this isn’t covered by the report), moving the focus of the campus toward the river and away from the Yard. In the new land, they would construct replacement buildings for the Business School, new science research and teaching facilities, and cultural buildings which could be utilized by the University and surrounding neighborhood.

I am particularly pleased that the University asked the architects to include plans for performing arts spaces and a student center, both extremely important uses where the space dedicated to each declined from an already low point during the ‘90s.

The plan also recommends a lot of transit, bike, and pedestrian improvements, including depressing Soldier’s Field Road to create a wider swath of parkland along the river, something Boston should consider doing along other parts of Soldier’s Field and Storrow Drive; adding transit-only lanes and dedicated bike lanes from North Harvard Street across the bridge and up JFK Street, and widening the bridge by essentially building new pedestrian and/or bike bridges on either side; and most interesting of all, building canals in and around the athletic facilities, to visually break up the space, drain water from the field, provide “places of repose” and create opportunities for ice skating(!) in the winter.

Anyway, I’m impressed.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.