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Continuum Development Struggles to Lease Space

199 Allston
The Allston complex known as Continuum will house forty-two residents after the affordable housing units were distributed in a lottery.

Though Continuum aims to invigorate North Allston by uniting town and gown, early lease sales at the new residential and retail complex have come in fits and starts, according to local real estate experts.

Continuum has leased almost 40 percent of its residential units as of February 2016, according to Leslie G. Cohen, chief operating officer at Boston-based real estate developer Samuels & Associates. Though Harvard owns the land under Continuum, the University chose Samuels & Associates in 2012 as the developer of the property.

Continuum began leasing its 325 apartments in August of last year. Studios and one-bedroom apartments—the complex’s least expensive and smallest units—are priced upwards of $2,000. Some have expressed concern that renters are being overcharged.

“That’s high,” said Kevin Cleary, a real estate agent for Re/Max in Boston. “Even though you have a lot of amenities [at Continuum], that’s a lot of money.”

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According to local rental search company Jumpshell, the average rent in Boston is currently $2,100—roughly $200 less than the starting price for a studio apartment in Continuum.

By October 2015, approximately 23 percent of Continuum’s units had been leased, according to local real estate blog Curbed Boston. Since then, prices have increased marginally. Samuels has begun offering new renters special incentives, including two rent-free months for tenants who move in by a certain date and a $100 parking discount for the first year, according to Cohen.

Cohen wrote in an emailed statement that Continuum’s leasing progress is “on-track” with Samuels’ projections for the complex.

Cleary said he was “not surprised” that Continuum has an occupancy rate of 40 percent—which he called a “low figure”—given that the building only began leasing in August, late in the rental season. Ideally, Cleary said, apartments “come online” in May or June.

Cleary said he was still taken aback by what he termed Continuum’s lack of progress leasing out retail units. Samuels has yet to name future tenants for the retail space on the ground floor, though Samuels spokesperson Kate Haranis wrote in an emailed statement the company was “close” to some “exciting announcements” on the retail front.

“It doesn’t seem like anything is set in stone,” Cleary said. He added that he looked at a building for a client in Government Center right next to City Hall and that it was priced lower than Continuum’s retail space per square foot.

Continuum features ground-floor retail space and a variety of housing options, including studio, one, two, and three-bedroom apartments. According to Cohen, prospective residents are also drawn by large amenity spaces, a game room, cyber lounge, and “creative green spaces.” After a January lottery, 42 affordable apartments in Continuum were offered to renters, a proportion of units mandated by law.

Harvard's blueprint for development in the neighborhood included Continuum as one of a series of development projects for the intersection of Western Avenue and North Harvard Street, just down the road from the future site of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and other facilities.

Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke said Continuum would bring “new vibrancy” and support for businesses in that area.

“The fact that, at least for now, several other developers are moving ahead with project proposals in the neighborhood.” Gerald Autler, a senior project manager at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said. “That to me is a sign that the development community at large still feels like there’s potential here.”

—Staff writer Jonah S. Lefkoe can be reached at jonah.lefkoe@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonahLefkoe.

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at hannah.natanson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

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