BLDUP Spotlight: Thomas Glynn 02/06/20
Harvard University’s ongoing development in Allston has already dramatically changed the landscape of the neighborhood, especially along Western Avenue. Under construction now, the $1B Science and Engineering complex will serve as a hub of learning for over 1,800 science and engineering students, researchers, and faculty when it opens in Fall 2020. Also under construction is the Harvard District Energy Facility, which will power these new developments. Up next for Harvard, the approved 14+ acre development dubbed The Harvard Enterprise Research Campus. BLDUP discussed the upcoming project with the CEO of the Harvard Land Company Thomas Glynn.
BLDUP: Preliminary plans call for the Harvard Enterprise Research Campus call for around 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 along with retail and restaurant space. Can you provide a bit of background on how you came up with this breakdown and what other features you want to ensure the project includes to create that sense of place found in successful mixed-use developments
Glynn: Harvard believes this breakdown/mix will provide for the critical mass of density and uses to create a place which is a fully activated, 24/7, self-sustaining, vibrant community where people want to work, want to live, and want to stay and play.
More information about the process can be found: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/03/plan-approved-for-harvard-enterprise-research-campus/
BLDUP: Recently you narrowed down the developer pool for the project to 9 firms. As you move forward what are some key factors that may affect your final decision on which developer to work with and when do you expect to announce the winner?
Glynn: We’re incredibly pleased with the partner selection process thus far, and that many of the responses include plans and concepts that address several of the core guiding principles that are important to Harvard, the local Allston community, the City and the region.
Among those principles are ensuring that a developer’s mission is compatible with that of Harvard, that it has a strong record of mixed-use experience, that it has strong focus on, and commitment to, an active, multi-use, sustainable public realm, housing which includes elements of diversity and affordability, and that the development team is made up of a diverse group of people, with diverse background and experience, which the Board believes is critical to ensuring the very best ideas, expertise, and foresight.
We’re confident that this thorough and thoughtful process will ensure that the Enterprise Research Campus complements the cutting-edge institutional research taking place on Harvard’s campus and throughout the region and that it will integrate into an already thriving community.
BLDUP: What have been the biggest challenges on this project to date and how have you worked to solve?
Glynn: The multi-phased developer selection process is an important step in realizing the transformational vision of a new and exciting urban district focused on research, entrepreneurship, and innovation in Allston. Throughout the process, HALC is seeking to evaluate market interest and hear from developers with new and exciting ideas that can contribute to that vision.
HALC believes that this developer selection is a means to an end – with the end goal of creating a new, innovation enterprise research campus that will complement the cutting-edge institutional research taking place on Harvard’s campus and throughout the region. And it will integrate into the emerging corridor of creativity along Western Avenue in Allston. It will contribute to a thriving community in a neighborhood that brings together academia and education, engaging public and community spaces, and the arts and sciences in ways that drive economic growth and innovation.
HALC wants to ensure that the lab/office, hotel and conference center, housing and retail mix, and robust public realm – all critical components - complement each other, as well as the surrounding area. In order to succeed, all the moving pieces need to gel and work together.
This is why Harvard believes it was essential to create the ERC Framework plan early on in the planning stages, to ensure that development doesn’t happen in a box, but instead it happens in thoughtful and complementary ways.
BLDUP: How will the Enterprise Campus integrate with Harvard's current Allston facilities including the upcoming Science & Engineering Complex?
Glynn: Harvard is in the midst of a significant transformation on Western Avenue in Allston. Exciting projects are moving forward to help advance Harvard’s mission of teaching and research, as well as to ensure that the Boston area remains a leader in innovation, research, learning, discovery, and entrepreneurship.
Harvard’s goal is to invite into the ERC companies that have research and intellectual intensity. The new SEAS building, which is set to open in 2020, together with the Harvard Business School (HBS), and the innovation lab cluster, will provide the intellectual seed capital that will attract companies to the ERC, and therefore become tied – in both proximity and collaboration - to the research and teaching atmosphere at Harvard. The intent is to recruit idea-intensive businesses to the Enterprise Research Campus that have a natural synergy with the scholarship that’s going on by our faculty and students in Allston, as well as with our peer institutions and hospitals in the region.
BLDUP: In working extensively with the Allston community what feedback have you gained from this group and how has it influenced plans for the project?
Glynn: Many of the guiding principles mentioned above are based on comments we heard through the extensive public process which led up to the BPDA’s approval of the PDA Master Plan. In fact, that top principles directly align with feedback we heard from the community throughout the public process and in ongoing engagement since the formation of HALC. Additionally, as part of that public process, Harvard introduced the ERC Framework Plan which outlined its initial thinking regarding district-wide, long-term development planning, which allowed for the opportunity to solicit feedback about other components of the ERC and beyond.
BLDUP: Finally, once a development partner has been selected do you have an idea of a timeframe for construction?
Glynn: It would be difficult to give any timeframe for construction because at this point, there is not an identified developer, nor any specific proposed project. HALC’s goal is to have a developer identified in late 2019. At that point, development and refinement of project specifics will commence, and the eventual project proposal will undergo the standard large project regulatory process consistent with all significant commercial development in the City of Boston.
Thomas Glynn is an adjunct lecturer in public policy. From 2012 to 2018 he was the CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority which includes Logan International Airport, Hanscom Airport, Worcester Regional Airport, and four Maritime businesses in the Working Port of Boston including a Cruiseship port, a Container terminal and an Autoport. Massport also has significant real estate portfolios in the South Boston Seaport and East Boston Waterfront.
From 1989 to 1991 Glynn was the General Manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority which included subway, trolley, bus, paratransit and commuter rail services for Greater Boston.
Glynn has also served in a variety of other public service jobs – Deputy Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, Deputy Commissioner of Welfare under Governor Dukakis and Executive Director of a White House Task Force on Youth Employment in the Carter-Mondale Administration.
In the nonprofit sector, Glynn served from 1996 to 2010 as Chief Operating Officer of Harvard affiliated Partners HealthCare and from 1991 to 1993 as CFO of Brown University. Glynn is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He has a BA from Tufts University and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University where he wrote his dissertation on Implementation. Glynn taught for four semesters at the Harvard Kennedy School in academic years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.
In addition to his teaching duties, Glynn is the CEO of the Harvard Allston Land Company which is the unit responsible for developing the 14-acre Enterprise Research Campus in the Allston neighborhood of the City of Boston, Massachusetts.