The Boston Planning and Development Agency board on Thursday approved Harvard University’s plans to build a new home for the acclaimed American Repertory Theater near the intersection of N. Harvard Street and Western Ave. in Allston, along with a 13-story, 275-unit apartment building for Harvard graduate students and other university affiliates.
In total, the board approved 656 residential units in Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, and West Roxbury. The approved projects include a much-debated 72-unit, four-story apartment building across from the MBTA Red Line Shawmut station in Dorchester. The board also granted tentative designation to developer Trinity Financial to redevelop 5.6 acres of city-owned surface parking lots adjacent to Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown into 686 apartments and condominiums, many of them at income-restricted affordable prices.
The $370 million ART and graduate student housing project at 175 N. Harvard St. is just up the street from Harvard Stadium and near Harvard’s new science and engineering complex and forthcoming enterprise research campus along Western Ave.
The ART has operated out of the Loeb Drama Center in Harvard Square since its founding in 1980, but that space “was not built to support a boundary-breaking regional theater,” said Kelvin Dinkins Jr., the theater’s executive director.
“Over the years, our mission has remained constant, but our vision has expanded — and so has our work,” Dinkins Jr. said. “Our focus on audiences, students, and how we use the galvanizing power of theater to build community is now at the center of the art we make and the work we do. And this extraordinary work needs intentional architecture.”
The new facility will be named for David E. and Stacey L. Goel following their $100 million donation in 2019. The 70,000-square-foot theater will house two flexible performance venues, rehearsal and teaching space, and an outdoor performance yard. They plan to start construction next year and open in 2026.
The project’s community benefits include landscape and streetscape improvements, $200,000 toward neighborhood nonprofit organizations via the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund, and $300,000 to future improvements of neighboring Smith Field, along with public art programming. Some community members testified that the community benefits did not go far enough, and asked the BPDA board to postpone a vote until benefits were renegotiated.
“It is unacceptable that community benefits do not match impact,” said Cindy Marchando, chair of the Harvard Allston Task Force.
The project had the support of local City Councilor Liz Breadon, and the BPDA board was unanimous in its approval.
“More housing through the colleges helps out the neighborhoods, so people can raise a family,” said BPDA Board member Raheem Shepard.
In Charlestown, Trinity Financial was one of two respondents to a request for proposals to redevelop the parking lots along Austin Street just south of BHCC. The developer has proposed a 686-unit, $495 million mixed-income residential project, with 392 apartments and 294 for-sale units, in four buildings ranging from six to 12 stories in height. Some 60 percent of the total units will be set aside for lower- and middle-income residents. The project will also include 100 deeply affordable units for Section 8 voucher holders as part of the Boston Housing Authority’s redevelopment of the nearby Bunker Hill public housing complex.
BPDA Director Arthur Jemison also announced the departure of Michael Christopher, the agency’s director of development review, who started at the then-Boston Redevelopment Authority nearly a decade ago. Christopher is leaving to become director of business development for Greater Boston at Shawmut Construction.
Also departing is BPDA board member Brian Miller, an appointee of former Gov. Charlie Baker, who has served on the board since May 2020, the third member of the five person panel to turn over this year. He’ll be replaced by someone selected by Gov. Maura Healey. Meanwhile Jemison on Thursday said former BHA Administrator Kate Bennett an appointee of Mayor Michelle Wu, will soon join the board.
“It’s really been a tremendous honor to work with everybody here,” Miller said. “We’ve got a tight, congested city, and a tremendous need for housing and economic opportunity. The work you do is so important. ... I appreciate your love, your passion for this city.”