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Harvard’s Allston parcel sees strong developer interest

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School’s 14 acres could host hundreds of thousands of square feet of lab, office, and residential space—and be the start of something even bigger

A glassy, multistory engineering and applied sciences school under construction.
Harvard’s new engineering and applied sciences school under construction in February 2019.
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Harvard plans by the middle of August to pare the number of developers bidding for development rights for 14 acres along Western Avenue in Allston, across from the university’s business school.

Applications to build out the parcel—one of the largest development footprints left in Boston proper—were due July 26. The university isn’t saying how many developers bid, per the Globe’s Jon Chesto, but only that the Cambridge-based school is pleased with the response to putting the rights out there. Harvard hopes to pick a winner before the end of 2019.

But, as others have pointed out, the right to develop this 14-acre footprint could be just the start for a winning developer. Harvard also owns an adjacent 22 acres as well as the approximately 100-acre Beacon Park Yard farther south (once thought to be a potential site for Amazon’s second HQ). Taken together, the winning developer this year could position itself to score one big parcel after another for years.

As for what will go in the 14 acres, that’s yet unclear. Preliminary plans call for a sizable project: 400,000 square feet of office and lab space, 250,000 square feet of apartments, and a 250,000-square-foot hotel and conference center. There would also be retail and restaurants.

There’s also a familiar refrain heard around this future project, which would go up next to Harvard’s new science and engineering campus. That is, it’s supposed to be another “next Kendall Square”—a tech-heavy area with housing thrown in. Stay tuned.