Harvard’s ongoing effort to expand its campus into Allston moved one step further on Tuesday when the non-profit public agency MassHousing said it closed $106.2 million in loans—the second-largest the company has given for one housing project—to redevelop the Charlesview Apartments in Brighton.
The Charlesview Apartments, currently located in Allston on Western Avenue near Harvard Business School, will be relocated to a site in Brighton as part of a land swap between Charlesview and the University.
The concrete cluster of 213 low-income housing units in Allston will be redeveloped in Brighton as a new 240-unit rental site when construction is complete. The new development site is located at the Brighton Mills Shopping Center, on eight acres of land formerly occupied by two closed stores—Frugal Fanny’s and a Kmart—and part of a parking lot, said Jeffrey J. Beam, senior project manager at Community Builders.
Construction workers broke ground on the building this past May and estimate they will complete it within two years.
The land swap grants Harvard control of the site in Allston. Though it has not yet built anything there, the Allston Work Team’s recommendations this past June suggested that the University develop plans for the land.
The land swap agreement was reached in 2007, but the undertaking languished as it underwent continuous revisions and community input meetings. A vocal contingent of community leaders had criticized the plan, suggesting that the project would create an income-segregated North Allston neighborhood. A series of redesigns followed, which aimed to reduce the density of the complex and respect the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
But when the Boston Redevelopment Authority approved the plans for the new Charlesview Complex in Dec. 2009, some community members felt that their concerns had not been adequately addressed. Some residents had proposed that the architects allow for backyard space, an amendment to the project that did not ultimately make it into the final plans.
Still, representatives of Community Builders say that the new Charlesview Complex will revitalize the neighborhood.
“This project will help knit together North Brighton in a way that it hasn’t been with the existing retail complex,” Beam said. “It will become a traditional neighborhood, with houses, blocks, and streets, integrating the Charlesview residents into the community in a way they couldn’t be in the existing apartment site.”
Community Builders will not only expand the number of available units but will build other community amenities like a park, community center, underground parking spaces, and new retail areas, it said in a press release.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino also viewed these changes as a positive boon for the local neighborhood’s environment and economy. “It will provide beautiful new homes for families, revitalize and enliven a section of our city and add much-needed jobs,” he said in a statement.
—Staff writer Leanna B. Ehrlich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.