Enlarged Allston Ambitions
Even as work proceeds toward construction of the first commercial buildings in Harvard’s 14-acre “enterprise research campus” (ERC) along Western Avenue in Allston, the University’s development partner, Tishman Speyer, has begun outlining ambitions for a successor phase. The initial program—a hotel and conference center, two residential towers, and two office/lab buildings, encompassing 950,000 square feet of space—may begin to rise next year. The projected follow-on work would add a million square feet of office/lab facilities and apartment towers.
In the first phase, Tishman Speyer’s team envisions the hotel and conference center along Western Avenue, with residences and a diagonal green space crossing the site behind them, and the office/lab towers to the rear, where the parcel abuts a new Harvard-built power plant that serves the engineering and applied sciences complex to the west (SEAS; see “A 500-Year Building,” January-February, page 13) and the proposed ERC. All this development falls within a square superblock. Wrapping around it to the west and south is an L-shaped area, about half the acreage, on which in phase two Tishman Speyer envisions more office/lab space on Western Ave.; an extension of the green space through the superblock framed by the phase-one development; additional residence towers; and to the rear, another office/lab structure, facing the energy plant.
The latter buildings might be developed in mid decade, assuming success with phase one; the schematic program presumably reflects what Tishman Speyer has learned from marketing those properties. In an early-March conversation, President Lawrence S. Bacow said companies had shown “a lot of interest” in the plans and prospective proximity to the SEAS and Harvard Business School faculties, and to the cluster of Innovation Labs (see harvardmagazine.com/bacow-postpandemic-plans-21). From the neighborhood perspective—critical in regulatory review—potential traffic and the affordability of the residences loom large; but the green space envisioned, and the elimination of large surface parking lots, may be welcome.
—Jonathan Shaw and John S. Rosenberg
Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), which has pursued litigation against Harvard’s longstanding use of race as a factor in its holistic review of applicants for admission to the College, in late February took the expected step of asking the Supreme Court to review its case. SFFA brought its suit, alleging discrimination against Asian American applicants, in 2014. In October 2019, U.S. District Court judge Alison Burroughs ruled in favor of Harvard; in November 2020, following SFFA’s appeal, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.
In the First Circuit decision, judges Jeffrey Howard and Sandra Lynch wrote that Harvard’s use of race in admissions is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, rejecting SFFA’s claims that Harvard “(1) engages in racial balancing of its undergraduate class; (2) it impermissibly uses race as more than a ‘plus’ factor in admissions decisions; (3) it considers race in its process despite the existence of workable race-neutral alternatives; and (4) it intentionally discriminates against Asian American applicants to Harvard College.” It was an emphatic ruling in Harvard’s favor on the facts in the case.
SFFA founder and president Edward Blum, who opposes affirmative action, vowed to appeal—and the first question presented for the Supreme Court’s review is whether it should “overrule Grutter v. Bollinger” (the most recent decision in four decades of litigation over admissions practices), and “hold that institutions of higher education cannot use race as a factor in admissions?” SFFA is also suing Yale, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Texas, seeking multiple paths (involving private and public institutions) toward review of affirmative action in admissions. The court, with three new Trump-administration appointees, will determine whether it wants to hear such cases.
President Bacow told the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at its March 2 meeting that SFFA seeks “to set aside decades of precedent,” overturning all consideration of race in admissions processes. He said Harvard would oppose the petition for review. If the court hears the case, he said in a subsequent conversation, the University will defend its admissions practices “quite aggressively,” given the continuing validity of the prior Supreme Court rulings, which have established that considering race as a factor in holistic admissions processes is “constitutionally permissible” and enhances the learning environment for all students.
The Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $150 million to extend Harvard-based leadership training for mayors nationwide and underwrite research on urban issues throughout the University. The gift, announced March 2, was hailed in a Boston Globe op-ed jointly written by former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, M.B.A. ’66, LL.D. ’14, and President Bacow, who cited its effect on improving front-line governance. The existing Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Program, based at the Kennedy School (HKS) since 2017, delivers courses, training, and advice from the Kennedy and Business School faculties. That work will now expand, reaching newly elected mayors and their teams, deploying postgraduate City Hall fellows, and more.
Significantly, this education and training effort will be anchored in a newly endowed Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University, a campus-wide center for research on city leadership and governance. The gift also underwrites 10 new positions in the field (to be named for Emma Bloomberg, M.B.A.-M.P.A. ’07) when faculty growth is largely on hold.
The center will be based at HKS, and directed by Jorrit de Jong, a senior lecturer at the school, who has led the existing leadership-training program. The levels at which the professorships will be created have not been announced. They will be allocated among schools by the provost: a good thing for deans to arm-wrestle over, following more than a year of worrying about pandemic-constrained budgets.