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Criticized housing complex is redesigned

Density, height were big issues for Allston

By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / July 28, 2009

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An affordable housing development that is part of a big land swap with Harvard University will be significantly redesigned in response to some Allston residents’ concerns that it was too densely packed into tall buildings.

The Charlesview Apartments, which will be relocated from its location near Harvard Stadium, will spread its 360 units among smaller, shorter buildings about a half-mile away on Western Avenue, at the former Brighton Mills shopping center.

Instead of 12 buildings on 6 acres, the new complex will have 26 buildings on 8 acres, according to the nonprofit developers, Charlesview Inc. and Community Builders Inc.

“We’re very excited to be moving forward and to introduce the new Charlesview to the community,’’ said Felicia Jacques, director of development for Community Builders.

The current concrete complex, with 213 units, was completed in 1971, and has become worn and outdated, its critics say.

However, it sits on a triangle of land that Harvard wanted to redevelop as a showcase entrance to the Allston portion of its campus.

Harvard will acquire the 6 1/2-acre parcel at Stadium Way upon completion of the new complex.

The university, due to financial pressures, has slowed construction of its $1 billion science complex in Allston, which was planned to bring with it restaurants, stores, and hundreds of new workers.

The new Charlesview would have 260 apartments and 26 ownership units spread among 25 buildings on the Brighton Mills site. A parcel across Western Avenue along Telford Street would include 74 ownership units in an eight-story building.

Some neighbors are concerned there should be an equal number of rental and ownership units on the parcels to avoid segregating lower-income residents in one area.

“We’ve asked the builder to build a truly diverse mixed-income community, and not just put 260 apartments in one big mass,’’ said Harry Mattison, an Allston resident who opposes the current plan.

City officials and the developers said Charlesview already includes a range of low- and middle-income families, and that the new development plan ensures ownership units will be spread across the property.

“The [old] complex has done its job, and now it’s time to move on and provide the kind of quality housing we want in the neighborhood,’’ said the Rev. Samuel Johnson, chairman of the Charlesview board of trustees.

Charlesview Inc., the owner of the apartment complex, is an interdenominational organization that consists St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church, the Brighton synagogue Kadimah-Toras Moshe, and Community United Methodist Church.

In addition to the housing units, the proposed project would include a community center, 521 parking spaces, and a park along Telford Street.

Kairos Shen, chief planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said the revised plan is consistent with a broader effort to build more housing and community space in the neighborhood.

He said the plan calls for up to 700 additional housing units in the years ahead.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.