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CAMBRIDGE, MA-In the face of overwhelming local opposition, Harvard University has abandoned its plans to build an art museum on its two-acre site right near the Charles River.

“We are shifting our focus to graduate student housing,” Mary Power, the university’s senior director of community relations, tells GlobeSt.com. Power says that the housing will be some type of apartment complex but adds that it is still in the “very early stages of planning.” The site is currently leased by Mahoney’s Garden Center.

The museum proposal had involved an underground connector that was designed to keep the buildings low and to connect the two parcels, which are located on opposite sides of the street. But Power says that gaining easements from the city to develop the connector was going to be difficult, especially in light of the lack of community support for the project.

The museum proposal engendered opposition from the moment it was suggested, so much so that it prompted the city to impose an 18-month building moratorium on the area. Residents in the area resent increasing development by the university.

But Power points out that student housing will bring less traffic into the area and will enable the university to increase the amount of open space on the site. Also, she points out that Boston city Mayor Thomas M. Menino has called on area universities to develop student housing to ease the housing crunch in the city. Power acknowledges that the new proposal already faces opposition from local residents and the university anticipates that getting approval from the city is not going to be easy.

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