As the BRA prepares to work with the community and Harvard to figure out a productive future of the Brighton Mills shopping center and Holton St Corridor, it makes sense to look at precedents for how this development might be done. We've heard excuses about Harvard's tight finances ("we can't dip into our endowment", they tell us) and that Harvard is a university, not a real-estate developer.
One project we can learn from is the Radian, 179 units of housing above 44,694 square feet of retail. The University of Pennsylvania owns the property, but they did not develop the building or put up the $70 million that it cost to build. In fact, UPenn makes money from the project through a 65 year ground lease to Island American Communities Group. The university retains long-term possession of the land, makes a profit by leasing the land to a private developer, and the hybrid building benefits the university and community.
Leaving aside the Radian's height, which isn't going to be duplicated in the Holton St Corridor, there is a lot that can be learned about how projects like this can get done by a willing university.
Here is the Google map showing the site of the Radian while it was under construction.