Campus & Community

Envisioning Allston’s enterprise research campus

4 min read

Fessler named to lead major real estate development effort focused on innovation, collaboration, entrepreneurship

Harvard University has announced the hiring of Steven D. Fessler as head of enterprise real estate. Fessler brings to Harvard more than 30 years of national real estate development experience, including in the greater Boston area.

In this new role, Fessler, who will report to Executive Vice President Katie Lapp, will lead the real estate development of the University’s emerging enterprise research campus in Allston. Working alongside Harvard leadership, Fessler will take the next steps in pursuing Harvard’s vision to create a center for innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship within Boston and the surrounding region.

“Innovation is at the heart of the knowledge-based economy that drives the region’s economic development,” said Harvard University President Drew Faust. “Harvard’s enterprise research campus presents an unparalleled opportunity to enhance the power of collaboration among the area’s academic institutions, hospitals, and research-based industries. Steven Fessler will bring remarkable expertise to this new role, and we are delighted to welcome him to the University.”

Harvard envisions this property as becoming a non-institutional center for various companies, incubators, startups, and social enterprises. It will serve to generate and implement new ideas that will improve the world in practical, tangible ways, and foster new synergies across Harvard’s campus and the region.

“The enterprise research campus is a bold development: a new innovation district offering a broad mix of uses, including new spaces to live, work, play, research, adapt, innovate, and collaborate, all while enhancing links to Cambridge, the Longwood Medical Area, Boston’s Innovation District, and other regional nodes,” said Lapp. “As Harvard continues to advance its plans in Allston, I look forward to working with Steve to engage communities within and outside of Harvard in charting the pathway forward for these critical parcels.”

The site is located across from the Harvard Business School (HBS), the i-lab, the Launch Lab, and the Life Lab, and would be adjacent to the state-of-the-art facility proposed as the new home for the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Catalyzed by this and the proximity to other key institutions in the region, this development area is being envisioned to support millions of square feet of development, as a hub for commercial, nonprofit, startup, venture capital, and investment enterprises.

“Harvard is an institution that is global in its outlook, but grounded in the region,” said Harvard Provost Alan Garber. “Massachusetts offers a density of academic institutions, hospitals, and business that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. Harvard wants to create a venue for research-based businesses to thrive in and to promote interaction across fields, disciplines, and institutions.”

Fessler, who starts his position on April 18, said he’s eager to begin listening, learning, and planning.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the team at Harvard. It’s an incredible privilege to be part of an iconic institution that is so deeply embedded in our idea-intensive economy,” he said. “The progress now unfolding in Allston is truly exciting. It’s representative of Harvard’s thoughtfully organized approach toward collaborative development. I’m enthusiastic about the opportunity to accelerate this effort and build on today’s growing momentum. The transformative potential of this new center of innovation is absolutely tremendous.”

Most recently, Fessler led SDF Properties LLC, a real estate investment and advisory firm focused on deep value-added commercial properties in New England. Prior to founding that firm, Fessler held senior leadership positions at Beacon Properties Corp., Copley Real Estate Advisors, and Leggat McCall Properties, all based in Boston. Fessler is a graduate of Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in construction engineering and management.

His hiring accompanies Harvard’s continued progress in implementing an ambitious 10-year institutional master plan for Allston, as well as a $43 million master plan for community benefits for the North Allston/North Brighton community.

The University is working to create an innovative and collaborative campus and community. Just last week, the Boston Redevelopment Authority board approved the Life Lab. Two institutional master plan projects at HBS are also underway. Leading up to this phase of development, the University played a leading role in helping to relocate residents of the old Charlesview Apartments to a new complex at Brighton Mills, and partnered with Samuels and Associates in developing 325 residential market-rate units and 40,000 square feet of commercial space in the heart of Barry’s Corner.