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At Harvard, a renewed vision

BRA approves academic, dorm building on Allston campus

A rendering of Harvard Business School’s seven-story, $100 million dormitory and classroom facility. A rendering of Harvard Business School’s seven-story, $100 million dormitory and classroom facility. (Dongik Lee/ William Rawn Architects)
By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / September 17, 2011

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It is Harvard University’s newest contribution to the banks of the Charles River.

Tata Hall, an academic and dormitory building, will be shaped like an arc opening to the river, with a glass and stone facade that is designed to create a striking gateway to the Harvard Business School’s Allston campus.

The $100 million, seven-story building along Soldiers Field Road was approved Thursday night by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, injecting momentum into the university’s long-delayed development plans in the city. Construction is expected to begin in December, with completion of the building scheduled for late in 2013.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the project will create 210 construction jobs at a time when huge numbers of laborers are out of work. It is also a positive sign for Allston neighbors who have been patiently waiting for Harvard to make something out of its substantial real estate holdings in the neighborhood.

Leaders of Harvard Business School said the new building, located next to the Weeks footbridge across from the university’s main campus, will contain 180 dorm-style rooms and classrooms for its executive education program. “This project will bring executives from around the globe to Boston to advance their education and strengthen their organizations,’’ said Nitin Nohria, dean of the business school.

The building, designed by William Rawn Associates Architects Inc., will feature floor-to-ceiling glass on its first two stories and stone on the upper levels; it will have a large opening at its center to preserve views to the interior of the campus and a large wing extending behind the building. The project will also result in construction of two large exterior courtyards, one along the river and another on the opposite side of the building. New walking paths will be constructed across the campus and spaces closest to the river will feature a cleaner landscaping design.

It is Harvard’s second project approved by the BRA in the last six months. The university also got the go-ahead for the Harvard Innovation Lab, a sort of think tank to spur collaboration and entrepreneurship across the university’s academic programs. That facility, to be located in the former WGBH headquarters at 125 Western Ave., is scheduled to open in November.

After postponing work during the economic downturn, Harvard signaled recently that it is poised to resume development of its long-awaited science campus in Allston. A recent report from a university task force sketched out a vision similar to the mix of academia and industry that has proved successful in Cambridge’s Kendall Square.

The largest section of the complex would be a 36-acre, privately developed “enterprise research campus’’ with up to 12 buildings for pharmaceutical, biotech, and venture capital firms. It would also include a health and life science center on Western Avenue with up to 700,000 square feet of space for labs and academic researchers drawn from other Harvard locations in Cambridge and Boston’s Longwood Medical Area.

For the enterprise research campus, Harvard has said it will work with private developers to create a cluster of buildings that could be leased by firms that spin off from its research facility or businesses that want to be near other life science companies. The site is also near a Genzyme drug manufacturing facility, which sits on Harvard-owned land that it leases. Harvard says it is reviewing plans for the expansion and will release more details about the components and schedule.

Casey Ross can be reached at