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Update on Allston planning

Dear Colleagues:

As we approach the end of this academic year, I would like to share with you a brief update on the Allston academic and physical planning process.

Last December, I asked more than 70 faculty members, students, and staff to participate in a group of task forces (Allston Life, Professional Schools, Science and Technology, and Undergraduate Life) that would consider more fully our academic and other programmatic aspirations for future development in Allston. The initial progress reports from the Allston task forces reflect a great deal of creative thought and hard work by the task force members. The preliminary programmatic options identified in their reports present a rich array of possibilities, and will be a valuable foundation upon which the University can begin to develop a physical framework to guide our future plans. (The reports are available online at

While the task forces were developing preliminary programmatic options, a group of faculty and administrators has been working to identify a planning firm that can work with the University to develop a coherent and imaginative set of physical scenarios for Harvard’s future presence in Allston. Twenty-six planning and design firms were originally invited to submit qualifications to assist us in the next phase of the Allston planning process. Because this is a planning — not a building or design — phase, the internal working group focused on leading firms that have had solid planning experience, and narrowed the list of respondents to four respected firms.

I am pleased to report that the University intends to engage Cooper, Robertson & Partners as the lead planning firm for the next phase of our Allston physical planning effort. Urbanist/architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin will augment the Cooper team. I believe this team will add great value to the planning process, bringing to this role an impressive track record of experience with complex large-scale projects in urban settings, sensitivity to the particular needs and interests of university clients, and ideas that balance creative vision with a strong sense of practicality.

In the coming year, the Cooper team will be closely informed by the ideas and perspectives of the academic task forces and other key University groups, while also engaging our Allston neighbors and city and state officials in cooperative discussions. The aim will be to ensure that our evolving physical plans for Allston are carefully aligned both with the University’s programmatic priorities and needs, and with the well-being of our neighbors and the requirements of the regulatory process.

Personally, and on behalf of the University, I want to thank the members of the academic task forces and the many others who have contributed so far to this complex and profoundly important process. Though the actual design and building is likely to be some years away, we have made significant progress in planning boldly and sensibly for Harvard’s future in Allston. I look forward to updating you on further developments in the months ahead, and I welcome your continuing comments, ideas, and reactions. Please send them to me by letter or by e-mail to


Lawrence H. Summers