Harvard delays opening of 29 Garden

BY ADINA LEVINE

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29 Garden Street is still under wraps while it undergoes extensive renovations.

Anyone who thought about applying for affiliated housing last year saw the fancy illustrations on the web page. 29 Garden Street, newly-renovated, complete with its own cafeteria, just blocks from the Law School, and ready for occupancy at the start of the school year. It almost looked too good to be true. For the 143 Harvard graduate students whose lottery numbers gave them the chance to live there, it was.

Due to construction delays, the residents were told over the summer that the opening would be delayed until the first week of October. And, to its credit, Harvard Housing has put the residents up at no cost at the Marriott Residence Inn and Marriott Boston Cambridge Hotel at Kendall Square. But as the first week of October comes and goes, the Garden Street residents won’t be moving into their brand-new apartments. Not yet, at least.

Two weeks ago, the Garden Street residents were informed that the building’s opening would be delayed yet again, with a three-phase move-in now scheduled to get some residents into the building on November 7, some on November 14, and the unlucky ones slated to live on the third floor not until December (due to a “garden staircase” yet to be completed). In addition, even when the residents do move in, some ongoing construction will continue throughout the month of November, starting at 7 a.m., 7 days a week.

Harvard Housing has tried to compensate the residents financially for the delays by deciding not to charge the residents any rent until December, and, after a litany of complaints from residents (and a mid-September article in The Crimson), Harvard Housing has finally agreed to pay for Internet service at the hotels and October and November T-passes for residents. But the hassle of commuting from Kendall Square and being unable to actually move into an apartment has made the situation at least a bit frustrating for many of the residents. “Don’t get me wrong – the maid service [at the hotel] is great, as is the free cable TV,” commented 2L Michael Giordano. “But I never would have signed my lease if I had known that I would be living in a hotel two T stops away from HLS for the vast majority of this semester.” “I imagine I’ll also be a bit bitter when I’m commuting through freezing snow in a few weeks,” he added.

Living so far from campus is particularly difficult for 1Ls who have yet to make friends and establish a social network. And for 1Ls and upperclassmen alike, participating in social activities and extracurriculars is an important part of law school life, and is made more challenging without easy proximity to campus.

“It would not have been worth it to me to move several T-stops away for the beginning of the school year,” asserted 3L Carrie Campbell, who is scheduled to live at Garden Street, but due to the delayed opening is currently living in her apartment in Terry Terrace where she lived last year. “I have too many things to do on campus.”

Nevertheless, the Housing personnel themselves have tried to be accommodating given the situation. “For all the annoyances of this situation, I have to say that every interaction I have had with the Affiliated Housing people has been very courteous and helpful,” commented Campbell.

Some students remain skeptical that the November move-in will actually occur on time. At a meeting held for the residents last week to explain the latest postponement, Susan Keller, director of Harvard Real Estate, promised the new November dates are being “said with confidence.”

But Keller also commented at the meeting that “it was conceivable that a rehabilitation could be completed in the 13 and a half months we gave it.”

Many students were disappointed with the university’s lack of foresight in promising that the housing would be available for this semester, and then reneging on its agreement.

“In my humble opinion, they’ve known for quite a while that the building most likely wouldn’t open until the end of the semester,” said Giordano. “But they also knew they had to present the best case scenario – no matter how unlikely – to prospective tenants, most of whom would not have signed leases if they had been given a more precise estimate of the anticipated opening date.”

Harvard Housing staff did not reply to repeated requests for comment.

Of course, given that Harvard has not required the residents to pay any rent, and they do get to live in a hotel – with all of the amenities – for free, some students are enamored with the university’s accommodations for what would otherwise be a particularly difficult situation, and feel that the positives outweigh the negatives.

“This is great!” exclaimed 1L Adam Tullman. “Obviously I’m very happy. The living space in the hotel is bigger than our room in 29 Garden will be. We get pool, spa, workout room, maid service, free breakfast, free dinner most nights, and now free broadband internet. What’s more we don’t pay rent. I couldn’t dream of a better situation.”

And with regard to missing out on campus activities, Tullman was unconcerned. “There’s campus life at Harvard?” questioned Tullman. “Could you direct me to it?”

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