Arboretum building approved

August 24, 2007
By

John Ruch


Courtesy illustration An artist’s rendering of Arnold Arboretum’s proposed Research and Administration Building.

JAMAICA HILLS—Arnold Arboretum’s plans for its 45,000-square-foot Research and Administration Building were approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board last week.

However, in a gesture to the community, the approval documents will not be signed until Sept. 14, and further public comments will be accepted during that time.

The arboretum hopes to begin construction on the $38 million building in October.

“We appreciate this vote of confidence,” said Harvard University spokesperson Kevin McCluskey, adding that the community’s input is appreciated as well. Harvard operates the arboretum.

The new building will sit on Weld Hill, a Harvard-owned lot bordered by Centre, Walter and Weld streets and the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. Weld Hill sits on the Jamaica Plain-Roslindale border next to the more familiar Peters Hill section of the arboretum.

The three-story building will house laboratory space and serve as the new administrative headquarters.

The project has been controversial, especially for the perception that the arboretum’s park aspects are being threatened by expansion of its research function.

As part of a deal with the community, the arboretum has pledged not to construct buildings or surface parking on a large section of Weld Hill for at least 875 years. Harvard technically leases most of the arboretum land from the City of Boston, and that is the amount of time left on the lease. However, Weld Hill is actually owned by Harvard.

The arboretum reserves the right to propose additional projects on the remainder of Weld Hill, but is not considering any at this time.

The arboretum’s expansion plans started three years ago and were initially much more ambitious. They included a large maintenance facility near the greenhouses and a large addition to the Hunnewell Building. Both of those projects were taken off the table due to community opposition, but the arboretum says such expansion and centralization are long-term necessities.

The arboretum grounds serve as both a public park for the city and a living research lab for Harvard’s world-renowned plant research.

The new building project still needs approval from the Boston Zoning Commission and the Boston Parks Commission.

The entire project description can be viewed on the arboretum’s web site at www.arboretum.harvard.edu. Written comments can be sent to BRA project manager Gerald Autler at Gerald.Autler.BRA@cityofboston.gov or BRA, Boston City Hall, 9th Floor, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201.

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