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Harvard University in Allston housing deal

School to build new Charlesview complex

Email|Print| Text size + By Thomas C. Palmer Jr.
Globe Staff / November 30, 2007

Harvard University yesterday finally struck a deal to relocate residents of a large affordable housing complex on land that is central to its expansion across the Charles River into Allston.

The purchase of the Charlesview Apartments complex near Harvard Stadium caps a year of negotiations with residents in which the university agreed to build a new, larger residential development a half-mile up the Charles River.

Situated at the apex of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue, Charlesview is at one end of a large section of Allston the university has targeted for a massive, multiyear expansion. Harvard originally envisioned several art and cultural buildings for the site, but in March elected to postpone plans for an art facility after neighbors objected that it was ill-suited for the location, known as Barry's Corner.

So far, Harvard has received city approval to build a $1 billion science complex along Western Avenue.

Charlesview is a 36-year-old, 213-unit housing project for mostly low-in come residents. It will be replaced with a new complex of 213 units, plus 69 additional affordable apartments, and 118 condominiums. It will also include a community center for residents and the neighborhood at large, and 11,500 square feet of retail space.

"It's really great," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "Residents of the 1971 urban renewal project are going to be moved to well-landscaped units. It's going to be a wonderful new life for them."

The location also satisfies a goal Charlesview directors outlined a year ago - that residents have better access to shopping; the new complex will be adjacent to a Shaw's Supermarket.

Most of the 10-building complex will be on the south side of Western Avenue, between Litchfield Street and a McDonald's restaurant. But two new buildings, possibly including townhouses, will be located on land Harvard now owns on the other side of Western Avenue, stretching north to Soldiers Field Road near the Telford Street Bridge, with a view of the Charles.

Financial terms of the deal, which has not yet closed, were not disclosed. But a representative of The Community Builders Inc., a nonprofit organization that negotiated with Harvard and will manage development of the new site, said it will cost several hundred million dollars.

Harvard is obligated to pay the amount it will cost to replace the 213 relocated units.

The new Charlesview will have at least 450 parking spaces, mostly underground, and large amounts of green space between buildings on the site, which is 6.9 acres, compared to 4.5 acres at the old Charlesview.

"It is going to be developed and maintained by Charlesview, but the idea is to reconnect back to the existing neighborhood," said Felicia Jacques, development manager for the project. "There is a sense of openness."

CBT architects of Boston will design the buildings, the tallest of which - closest to the river - is tentatively slated to be 10 floors. Others will range from four to six stories. The project must be approved by the City of Boston before construction can begin.

"This helps advance the mayor's agenda to create additional affordable housing in this neighborhood," said Kevin A. McCluskey, Harvard's director of community relations. "It also makes redevelopment of Barry's Corner, a goal of the neighborhood, more likely as Harvard develops around it."

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at tpalmer@globe.com.

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