Residents Blast Proposed Charlesview Swap

A day after the University announced plans to take over a prime piece of Allston land, residents of the affected areas said at a meeting last night that they were dissatisfied with Harvard’s new offer.

The University announced this week that it wants to swap five acres of land at the Harvard-owned Brighton Mills Shopping Center and provide “resources” to construct a new low-income apartment complex there in exchange for the site of the Charlesview Apartments—now located at the center of the University’s holdings across the river.

According to Harvard’s director of community relations, Kevin McCluskey ’76, the meeting was organized to reach out to the affected residents and alert them to the proposal the University announced Wednesday.

Some residents near the Brighton Mills Shopping Center expressed anger in response to the limited answers that Harvard officials could provide.

“Everyone seems to have to take the backseat to the desires of the University who thinks that nothing can go forward until they have this Charlesview property,” said Allston resident Paul Creighton. “Now they’re back trying to take another bite of the apple.”

Harvard’s chief planner, Kathy A. Spiegelman, noted the advantages and disadvantages of opening up a dialogue so early in the planning process.

“The positive thing about coming out early, is that it is early. Nothing has been set in the stone,” she said. “The problem with coming out early is that there may be more questions than we have answers to.”

Some Charlesview tenants also said they were unhappy with Harvard’s recent plans for its future campus.

“It just seems like you guys move so slow and then all of a sudden, bang, you’re moving at the speed of light,” said Debby Giovanditto, the president of a Charlesview tenants’ group that has opposed previous Harvard offers. “We need to step back and weigh everything before anything happens. The community definitely needs to be in on it.”

But McCluskey reiterated that Harvard’s offer was not definite and that further conversations would take place between Harvard and the residents who live near the Brighton Mills center and at the Charlesview Apartments.

“This won’t be the only opportunity that we have to carefully consider the proposal,” he said. “The process will continue with the Charlesview board and the Charlesview community and it will move to its next step from there.”

—Staff writer Laura A. Moore can be reached at