Charlesview Construction Ahead of Schedule

Though construction of the new Charlesview housing complex in Allston-Brighton is slated to be completed ahead of schedule, Harvard’s plans for the current Charlesview site remain nebulous. According to The Community Builders, Inc.—the developers in charge of building the new Charlesview complex—the mild winter has allowed construction to continue ahead of schedule.

While The Community Builders originally planned for construction to finish in Oct. 2013, Jeffrey J. Beam, the Charlesview project director, said he hopes that work on the new site will in fact be finished late in the summer of 2013. The new housing complex, located a few blocks down Western Ave. from the current site, will utilize a variety of building designs, according to Beam. It will consist of 240 mixed-income units, which will be spread across 22 buildings made up of anywhere between 2 and 84 units.

In 2007, Harvard reached a land-swap agreement with Charlesview’s Board of Directors. The University traded a parcel it owned near Brighton Mills shopping center for Charlesview’s current five-acre plot, prime realty for the University since it abuts the Business School.

Beam said that the new Charlesview Apartments will better serve residents and blend more seamlessly into the neighborhood than the current 213-unit concrete complex. Beam said that the new units will be “more family friendly,” since Charlesview will now offer a variety of housing options and bring residents closer to the commercial heart of Western Ave.

“Whereas the old [Charlesview units] are isolated, the new ones are not,” Beam said.

Allston resident and community activist Tim McHale echoed Beam’s sentiments, saying he thought the new Charlesview was a “win-win” for residents and the neighborhood.

“It puts residents in the middle of an existing neighborhood instead of on the outskirts of a neighborhood,” McHale said.

The future of the old Charlesview, which sits on land that Harvard now owns, remains uncertain.

In Sept. 2011, Harvard Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp announced that a site assessment, including consideration of new academic buildings, would be one of three prongs of the University’s first phase of its resumed development program in Allston.

Now, Allston residents are optimistic that as the University moves forward in planning for Allston, it will reveal more projections for the site.

“We’re all curious as to the disposition of the site once [Charlesview] moves out of there,” said Harvard-Allston Task Force member and neighborhood resident Paul Berkeley.

Berkeley said that he feels the University should look back to previous versions of its 2007 Institutional Master Plan when deciding on a use for the current site.

Prior to Dec. 2009, when the University halted construction in Allston, the development of an arts and culture complex was one oft-repeated proposal for the current Charlesview site.

Berkeley said he hopes that the University will consider that plan and others discussed by community members and developers.

“I don’t want to keep reinventing the wheel every time the plan shifts a little,” Berkeley said. “We should look at what we thought was best back then—that took a lot of time.”

Task Force member Harry Mattison said that this parcel of land has not been discussed much as of late, but he expects that it will come under the spotlight once the Task Force begins a larger dialogue about the Institutional Master Plan.

“I’m sure Charlesview will come up whenever the planning actually starts. It will be a key topic then,” he said.

He added that he thinks the most important piece of the planning will be to ensure that the site does not remain vacant, a concern that stems from the more than two-year freeze on construction of Harvard’s science center in Allston.

“The priority is that they have the site active and lively—whether that is some sort of interim use for some number of years or whether it means going immediately into construction for some unknown number of years,” he said.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

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