Campus & Community

Charlesview and Harvard move toward land exchange agreement

4 min read

New site, apartment complex will accommodate all current residents and add a number of new, affordable units to the Allston-Brighton neighborhood

The board of directors of Charlesview Inc., the nonprofit owner of Charlesview Apartments in Allston’s Barry’s Corner, has taken a significant step toward the possible relocation of the Charlesview Apartments by voting to pursue a land swap with Harvard University. Under the proposal, Charlesview would exchange its land at the intersection of Western Avenue and North Harvard Street in return for a Harvard-owned 6.5-acre site further west along Western Avenue. The new site incorporates a portion of the Brighton Mills Shopping Center, as well as a parcel on the north side of Western Avenue, with frontage on Soldiers Field Road and the Charles River adjacent to the Telford Street pedestrian bridge.

The agreement would enable Charlesview Inc. to build a new apartment complex that would maintain the existing 213 affordable units on site and accommodate a new mixed-income program for residents. The exchange would create additional new rental and homeownership units affordable to a wide range of incomes and responding to today’s family housing needs; provide significant open space and outdoor amenities for residents; enable the relocation of the Joseph M. Smith Health Center, an important resource for the neighborhood, to the new site; and provide residents with enhanced access to community retail, service, and meeting space opportunities on Western Avenue. The existing Charlesview site in Barry’s Corner would become part of Harvard’s future campus in Allston.

“This is an important milestone for the city, particularly the Allston-Brighton neighborhood. I am pleased that Harvard has recognized the commitment to this neighborhood, and I commend the Charlesview Board for its dedication to providing an important affordable resource in the city for over 50 years. This agreement will extend the life of Charlesview for many years to come and bring more housing choices for a variety of income levels,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Formal discussions with Harvard were initiated by the Charlesview Board in 2003, with the board represented throughout by the development consultant, The Community Builders Inc. In weighing the value of any potential land exchange with Harvard, the board insisted on a set of strict criteria, including access to public transit, availability of a variety of amenities, and close proximity to the current site.

“Harvard’s most recent offer addresses the criteria the board has asked for,” said Board Chair Rabbi Abraham Halbfinger of Kadimah-Toras Moshe in Brighton. “There has always been a sense of urgency given the advanced age of our buildings. However, we needed to give the appropriate level of consideration to all scenarios for such a significant decision. The agreement we expect to reach with Harvard will be a win-win – new high-quality apartments for our current residents with their affordability ensured into the future, as well as the added goal of increasing the affordable housing stock for the working families of Allston and Brighton. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the community at large and working out the details of the exchange with Harvard.”

Additional steps will follow, including finalizing the details of the agreement between Harvard and Charlesview Inc. and following the appropriate city, state, and HUD approval processes.

“This is a significant step forward in the shared effort to maintain Charlesview as an essential affordable housing resource for the Allston-Brighton community,” said Chris Gordon, COO for Harvard University’s Allston Development Group.

Opened in 1971, Charlesview is a 213-unit affordable housing development, owned by Charlesview Inc. Charlesview Inc. is a faith-based, mission-driven nonprofit organization. It is administered by an all-volunteer board of directors appointed by its founding faith institutions: St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Allston, Brighton’s Community United Methodist Church, and Kadimah-Toras Moshe. The board of directors has recognized that the facilities are in need of significant repair or replacement, and they initiated a redevelopment process in 2003. Over the past three years, the Charlesview Board and members of the resident community have worked diligently to lay out a vision for Charlesview’s next phase.