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Harvard starts work on $100-million Tata Hall on Allston campus

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  December 8, 2011 01:34 PM

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(Neal Hamberg)

From left to right, Edward Bond of Bond Brothers construction company, Dick Spangler, class of '56, business school Dean Nitin Nohria, Ratan Tata, former Dean Jay Light, and Bill Rawn of William Rawn Associates.

Harvard University has broken ground on a $100-million, seven-story building to be used primarily for housing on its Business School campus in Allston.

The proposed 150,000-square-foot Tata Hall received city approval in September nearly one year after it was announced. The university received a $50-million gift to fund the new 180 dorm-style facility that will also include academic components.

The donation from Tata Trusts and Companies, a philanthropic wing of India's Tata Group, is the largest gift from an international donor in Harvard Business School’s 103-year history.

Ratan Tata, head of Tata Group for the past two deacades and a 1975 graduate of the school’s advanced management program for senior executives, joined Dean Nitin Nohria, former Dean Jay Light, and business school alum and benefactor C.D. "Dick" Spangler at a ceremonial groundbreaking last Friday night.

"I'm happy and proud to give something back to an institution that has done so much for me and for others,” Tata said in a statement. “It is a great honor to play this role and to leave a lasting imprint on the Harvard Business School campus. I hope Tata Hall does great things for the people who live and move through this valued institution.”

Work on the building will employ 210 construction workers, and the facility’s completion -- expected by Dec. 2013 -- will lead to hiring of around 20 permanent workers, city officials have said.

On the northeast corner of the school’s Allston campus, the arch-shaped stone and glass building along Soldiers Field Road will overlook the Charles River and provide housing for the Business School’s Executive Education program.

“The building will house executives who come from around the globe to advance their education and then return to strengthen their organizations, thus furthering the HBS mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world,” Harvard University said in a press release.

"We look forward to welcoming remarkable leaders, investing in their education, and contributing to their ability to make a profound difference in the world," Dean Nohria said in a statement. "Tata Hall marks the shift to a new global century of business, and is a special marker as we look forward to a renewed, more interconnected world."

The dorm rooms will be clustered into study group suites with kitchen facilities, several small auditorium-style classrooms and a common meeting space, the city has said.

In late 2009, the university halted construction of a $1.4 billion science facility in Allston, subsequently causing strained relations with neighborhood residents, after the plummeting stock market ravaged the value of Harvard's investments.

This past spring, the university began work on its first major project since the science complex development stalled – a $20-million investment to convert a 78,000 square-foot building along Western Avenue into a laboratory for innovation and entrepreneurship. That building, the iLab, opened last month.

Later in the spring, crews broke ground on Charlesview 2, a $207-million mixed-use project on land that Harvard had swapped previously with the complex’s owners.

The university made a "substantial cash payment" to cover the relocation costs for that project, which is being developed by The Community Builders, Inc. and financed through private debt, tax credits, and other funding, including a $106-million loan from the state’s affordable housing bank.

Over the summer, the school announced a new approach of dividing its ambitious plans into smaller projects and forming partnerships with outside developers and investors in order to build on its large mass of land holdings in Allston, where some residents have remained skeptical of the school that has failed in multiple instances to live up to its promises to the community in recent years.

In recent months, the school has been working to sign leases at vacant retail and commercial properties it owns in Allston. In June, Harvard swapped some of its Allston land with the Skating Club of Boston. And, in early July, the university opened Library Park, which, for some Allston residents, was a step toward renewing their faith in Harvard’s commitment to the neighborhood. The park was renamed after neighborhood resident Raymond V. Mellone last month.

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(Courtesy: Harvard Business School, William Rawn Associates, & Reed Hilderbrand)

A sketch of the planned Tata Hall viewed from Harvard Business School's Kresge Hall looking toward Soldiers Field Road and the Charles River.

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