Sunday, October 24, 2010

LOCAL NEWS: Harvard to resume expansion plan

Harvard Business School, which put its Boston expansion plans on hold because of the recession, is ready to start pouring concrete again. $50m gift will help fund new building.

Yesterday, the school revealed that it will spend $90 million to $100 million on a new executive education center, plus $15 million to $20 million to convert an Allston building into a laboratory for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Together, they highlight a continued drive to invest in Boston,’’ Mayor Thomas M. Menino said at a news conference about the projects.

Menino said the Harvard announcement is the latest about a series of building projects in Boston that demonstrate a recovery in the local business climate.

The new building, to be named Tata Hall, will be funded in part by a $50 million gift from Tata Group, a technology and manufacturing conglomerate based in India. The gift is the largest Harvard Business School has ever received from a foreign donor.

Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons Ltd., attended the school’s advanced management program in 1975. “I’m delighted that we are going to be here in name and also in spirit,’’ he said at the news conference.

In addition, Harvard will renovate the former Western Avenue home of public television station WGBH, converting it to an innovation laboratory.

The business school’s dean, Nitin Nohria, said the lab would bring in undergraduate and graduate students from throughout the university “to connect with our business school students and to create new ventures.’’

Nohria said the old WGBH building was “in a state of actually extraordinary disrepair. The roof is gone. The building has been vandalized.’’ Still, he said, he hopes the lab will be ready by fall 2011. He estimated that construction of Tata Hall would be finished by fall 2013.

Community activist Harry Mattison, a member of the Harvard Allston Task Force, which was founded by Menino in 2006, said Harvard should view the WGBH renovation as an opportunity to bring more economic development to the area.

“It has a potential to be a first step toward the renovation of Allston and Western Ave., which Harvard has talked about over the past decade,’’ Mattison said.

He suggested including retail space in the renovated building and urged Harvard to develop shopping and dining businesses on other nearby properties it owns.

The developments reflect growing confidence at Harvard about its fiscal health and the state of the economy. Last year, the university halted construction of a $1.4 billion science facility in Allston after the plummeting stock market ravaged the value of Harvard’s investments. “Nobody knew where the bottom was,’’ Nohria said. “Like everybody else in the world, we were rightfully cautious and prudent.’’

Now, Harvard is ready to build. “We have begun to recover,’’ Nohria said. “So we’re willing to make prudent investments again.’’ He stressed the business school won’t use borrowed money. “We’re only doing things today for which we have secure funding in place,’’ he said.

Hiawatha Bray Boston Globe October 14, 2010

No comments: