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Construction on Charlesview Progresses, University Plans Remain Vague

By Mercer R. Cook, Crimson Staff Writer

The erection of a steel garage Tuesday marked the first visible sign of progress in the construction of the new Charlesview Housing Complex, a mixed-income housing development in Allston-Brighton. But while advancement on the new site has been met with enthusiasm from both residents and University officials, this progress has raised questions about Harvard’s nebulous plans for the property that holds the soon-to-be-replaced Charlesview complex.

Jeffrey J. Beam, the Charlesview project director for The Community Builders Inc.—the developers tasked with building the new Charlesview complex—said that the construction of the garage visibly demonstrated progress for the Allston community.

“Psychologically, I think it just really helps people to feel good about their community when they can physically see the progress that is being made,” Beam said. “That really increases excitement among the community.”

According to Beam, the new housing complex will be comprised of 240 mixed-income units in 22 buildings of varying size.

Discussing the rapidly advancing construction in an email, University spokesperson Lauren M. Marshall wrote, “It is welcome news that the families who live in Charlesview, many of whom have been Allston residents for many decades, may have the opportunity to move into their new homes ahead of schedule.”

Harvard-Allston Task Force Chair and Allston resident Ray V. Mellone echoed that sentiment. “For us to see development happen sooner rather than later is not a bad idea,” he said. “It can only lead to good things later down the road.”

But while the new complex rises, Allston residents have recently criticized Harvard’s vague plans for the new use of the current Charlesview site. Harvard obtained the land, which abuts other University-owned properties, in a 2007 swap with Charlesview’s Board of Directors.

Mellone said that the advancing progress on the new Charlesview site makes him more anxious about the University’s currently unclear plans surrounding the site it now owns.

“I think a lot of Allston residents will be more relaxed when Harvard begins to give us some more tangible—and hopefully community-friendly—ideas about their plans for the [current] Charlesview site,” Mellone said.

Task Force member and Allston resident Harry E. Mattison shared Mellone’s sentiment, saying that the progress on the new complex puts more pressure on Harvard to create a detailed plan for the new Charlesview site, which the University has said it will reserve for “institutional use.”

Though Marshall did not provide specifics, she said that the University has laid out a plan for developing a vision for the land.

“We have publicly committed to providing an update on site assessment, academic planning and timeline for this site when the new Charlesview Residences are occupied, and prior to demolition of the existing structure,” Marshall wrote.

In the 2007 land swap, Harvard traded a six-acre parcel it owned near the Brighton Mills shopping center for the current Charlesview site, which is located on a five-acre plot next to Harvard Business School.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at

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