Private development on university property

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.


  1. Anonymous5:44 PM

    Wow. That's only 179 units of housing and the new Charlesview, as proposed, is nearly 400!

  2. Those are the # of units, but I don't understand the "wow" part of your comment.

    The Radian is built on 2.2 acres. Harvard owns more than 20 acres in the Holton Street Corridor, which is way more than is needed to build 400 units of housing.

  3. Anonymous10:47 PM

    Yes, instead of maintaining an existing affordable housing environment like the Charlesview, we should ask Harvard to build a luxury student-only housing apartment complex on the Brighton Mills site, with a few niche retail outlets that cater to the wealthy students living above. Great idea.

  4. Anonymous12:57 AM

    Um, yeah, why not? Catering to the poors won't improve our property values. I, for one, welcome our Harvard conquerors and look forward to their wealthy oriented development.

  5. I have no idea what you are talking about. My post was about a mechanism that can be used to allow a private developer to build something useful while Harvard retains long-term control of the land. I don't think we should pick up the Radian and put it in Allston. Harvard student housing will be built by Harvard, not a private developer.

  6. Half the people that live at the Charlesview apartments pay MARKET RENT, so before you post something you need to get your FACTS STRAIGHT.