Campus & Community

Charlesview and Harvard agree to land exchange

4 min read

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

The Charlesview Inc. board of directors and Harvard University have signed a purchase-and-sale agreement that will enable the construction of a new apartment complex for Allston’s Charlesview residents on Harvard-owned property located a half-mile from the current complex in Barry’s Corner.

As part of the agreement, Charlesview Inc., the nonprofit owner of Charlesview Apartments in Allston, will exchange its land at the intersection of Western Avenue and North Harvard Street for a Harvard-owned 6.9-acre site farther west along Western Avenue.

The new location for the Charlesview Apartments 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. Harvard will provide funding that enables Charlesview Inc. to replace the aging Barry’s Corner complex with 213 new affordable housing units for Charlesview’s existing tenants. An additional mixed-income program, both rental and ownership, for working families is also planned for the new site.

Recognizing that the existing Charlesview facilities were in need of significant repair or replacement, the board of directors of Charlesview Inc., the faith-based, mission-driven nonprofit, initiated a redevelopment process in 2003. Formal discussions with Harvard were also initiated by the Charlesview Board in 2003, with the board represented throughout by its development partner, The Community Builders Inc. The agreement reached between Charlesview Inc. and Harvard offers a long-term solution for the affordable housing development in need of repair and expands housing options for working families in Boston.

“We believe that we have reached an agreement that is beneficial for all parties involved,” said Charlesview Board Chair Rabbi Abraham Halbfinger of Kadimah-Toras Moshe in Brighton. “We have successfully kept this community together, secured high-quality apartments for our 213 residents, while increasing the affordable housing stock to the working families of the Allston-Brighton neighborhood.”

The exchange will also provide considerable open space and outdoor amenities for the Charlesview community, as well as enhanced access to community retail and services on Western Avenue.

“I’m proud that this agreement will extend the life of Charlesview for many years to come and bring more housing choices to Allston, for a variety of income levels,” Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “I look forward to beginning a dialogue with the community to ensure that this project benefits them.”

The Community Builders Inc., the developer, will initiate a public and community review process by filing their development proposal with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), the city’s planning and economic development agency. The BRA will review all aspects of the project, including urban design, transportation, and environmental impacts. In addition to the internal city review, the BRA will conduct a community review process. All of these steps will need to be completed before the transaction is finalized.

“This is a significant milestone in the shared effort to preserve an important affordable housing resource for future generations,” said Chris Gordon, COO for Harvard’s Allston Development Group. “It is also an important step for Harvard as we plan a future campus that will strengthen the neighborhood and establish a welcoming crossroads for campus and community at Barry’s Corner.”

Harvard will incorporate the current Charlesview land in Barry’s Corner into its planning for a future campus in Allston. The University is considering possible academic uses for the site as part of its master planning process. An arts and culture complex is among the ideas being considered as part of the academic planning that will guide Harvard’s vision for Barry’s Corner. The Boston Redevelopment Authority’s review of Harvard’s institutional master plan for Allston is currently in its initial stages.