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Harvard Halts Construction of $1B Science Complex

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Harvard University will "pause" construction of its $1 billion Allston Science Complex in Boston next spring upon completion of the current phase, President Drew Gilpin Faust announced in a letter this week to the university and Allston communities.

The action delays the university's plans to move its Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and a new department of stem cell and regenerative biology, to the new science center.

"The altered financial landscape of the University, and of the wider world, necessitates a shift away from rapid development in Allston," Faust said in her letter, released Thursday. "The most prudent course is to delay the next phase of construction while continuing a rigorous analysis of strategies for resumed activity."

That analysis will be conducted by a three-person team of Harvard professionals. They will examine options that include "co-development with private partners or other institutional partners," Katherine Lapp, Harvard's executive vice president, said in the university's official publication, the Harvard Gazette.

"We expect to take the next year to look at possible opportunities," Lapp said. "We expect to file an updated plan by the end of 2012."

During the pause, Lapp said, Harvard will redevelop space in its Cambridge and Boston (Longwood) campuses for the stem cell institute and department, and other unspecified science uses. But the Wyss institute will move primary operations from Longwood to a nearby non-Harvard building, the Center for Life Sciences, "in the early spring of 2010," Wyss director Don Ingber said in a Dec. 7 university newsletter.

Lapp said Harvard will finish in March the Allston complex's below-grade structure — namely a foundation with 8,000 tons of structural steel, and several below-grade unfinished spaces for lab support, power generation, and underground parking. That project is "93 percent" complete, she said, to be topped by a street-level concrete deck nearing completion.

Harvard slowed down construction earlier this year as the economy slipped into recession. Harvard has blamed the recession for a 27 percent plunge in its endowment in the year that ended June 30, from $36.9 billion to $26 billion.

Also during the pause, Faust said, Harvard will seek to lease out several buildings used for supporting construction operations; improve the buildings, which total 100,000 square feet; extend short-term leases on space already rented to tenants; and complete a new park and landscaping within the 350-acre site, where the 589,000-square-foot science-complex was supposed to open in 2011.

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