Allston Residents Celebrate Community Center

Construction of Once Controversial Building Ahead of Schedule

About 45 members of the Allston-Brighton community gathered at noon on Wednesday at the construction site of the relocated Charlesview Residences housing complex to celebrate the progress of the ahead-of-schedule building project.

Members of Charlesview’s Board of Directors unveiled the ceremonial cornerstone at the site, which is projected to be ready for residents to move in by this summer, ahead of the original October 2013 target date.

The ceremony, which was shortened due to temperatures in the low teens, took place at 370 Western Ave., in an unfinished structure that will soon become the Josephine A. Fiorentino Community Center. The Center will serve as a gathering place for both residents of the new complex and the entire Allston-Brighton community.

“This is really the beginning of many celebrations,” event organizer Jo-Ann Barbour said in an interview after the ceremony.

Barbour, who is the executive director of Charlesview, Inc., said nearly all the residents of the existing Charlesview site have elected to move to the new, larger one, which will contain 240 apartments.

“Every resident that wants to move here will move here,” she said.

Barbour also explained that the Community Center, which is named after the founder of Charlesview, Inc., will serve as a hub for the entire community and include a computer center, arts center, multipurpose rooms, and services such as college counseling and other family programs.

The new property, which sits across the street from the Brighton Mills Shopping Center, is several blocks away from the old housing complex, adjacent to Harvard Business School. The old site’s location made it attractive to the University. Harvard obtained it from Charlesview’s Board of Directors in 2007. In exchange, Charlesview received the new site, which officials at Wednesday’s event praised for its location embedded in the Allston-Brighton community.

But that agreement has provoked some anger and confusion among residents and members of the wider community.

Construction on the new site—which is being co-developed by Charlesview, Inc., and The Community Builders, Inc., a nonprofit developer of mixed-income housing—began in May 2011. And on Wednesday, Barbour said that the unveiling was “one way to begin to mark this four-year journey.”

She explained to the group that the original Charlesview Residences were founded by a group of religious organizations, whose names also appeared on the cornerstone unveiled Wednesday. Representatives from St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Congregation Kadimah-Toras Moshe, and Community United Methodist Church, many of whom also sit on Charlesview’s Board of Directors, were present at the event and spoke to the crowd.

Father Frank Glynn of St. Anthony’s, who is also chairman of the Board, voiced excitement about the Community Center’s construction.

He described the Center as “a labor of love and...a commitment to the Allston-Brighton community.”

He also extolled the warmth of the group that had gathered despite the crude state of the room and the freezing temperature.

“I’ve been in many elegant pulpits in my time,” Glynn said. “And I’m really enjoying where I’m standing now.”

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