GentriWatch: It Was Nice Knowing You, Allston

With plenty of transit options and rockbottom land costs, Allston is fast becoming a prime target for developers.

Welcome to GentriWatch, where we look for signs of gentrification happening around the city.


RENDERING BY BEHNISCH ARCHITEKTEN, VIA BOSTON REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

RENDERING BY BEHNISCH ARCHITEKTEN, VIA BOSTON REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

DEVELOPERS ARE LICKING their chops, eyeing up the area surrounding Western Avenue in Allston. And if the Globe is calling the area “Boston’s latest hot neighborhood,” it’s only a matter of time before those without $4,000 to burn on a two-bedroom apartment are, to steal a term from the late George Carlin, S.O.L.J.W.F.

As one developer told the Globe this week, “all fundamentals are all there” in Barry’s Corner, from transit options both for auto commuters (Soldiers Field Road and the Mass. Pike) and for those taking public transportation, to exponentially lower land costs than the Seaport and Fenway, two areas rife with luxury housing.

Barry’s Corner is already home to Continuum, Allston’s first luxury towers, built on a historic urban renewal battleground between longtime residents and former Boston Mayor John Collins and the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The Globe‘s Jay Fitzgerald attributes the explosion of interest in the area to three projects: Harvard’s proposed John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), a 150-room boutique hotel, a 150-room hotel and an office building, and the Arsenal Project in Watertown.

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HARVARD HAS COMPLETED its multiyear acquisition of Allston Landing, a 90-acre plot formerly used by Florida railway company CSX.

The school purchased the remaining 19.6 acres for a neat $97.3 million, reports the Boston Business Journal, after acquiring Allston Landing North and South in 2000 and 2003, respectively. The deal allows Harvard to move forward with the SEAS on Western Avenue, while a 2009 agreement makes CSX responsible for any environmental cleanup of the industrial area.

Designed by German firm Behnisch Architekten, the 496,850-square-foot project includes the renovation of 114 Western Avenue, and will provide classrooms, laboratories, and other facilities for SEAS. The project has been in the works since 2007, briefly stalled by economic downturn.

“We’re pleased to see Harvard University move forward with plans for the Science and Engineering Complex in Allston, as this is an important step in the continued revitalization of the area around Barry’s Corner,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement last month. “Harvard has the opportunity to build on the momentum of other successful projects in the neighborhood, and we’re eager to continue facilitating a dialogue between the University and members of the community during the review process.”

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FORGET THE GENTRIFICATION of Allston—here comes the purification rundown.

The New England branch of the Church of Scientology purchased its new headquarters at 212-214 Lincoln Street near the Mass. Pike, as well as several surrounding properties, for $15 million. A spokesperson told the Globe there’s no set move-in date, and some work would have to be done on the interior. In the meantime, the Scientologists are leasing office space in Quincy.

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WBUR’s RADIO BOSTON did a four-part series on rampant evictions in East Boston this week, and it’s must-listen material.

Longtime residents are being displaced at an alarming rate, handed “no fault evictions” as rents and home values soar. Some housing advocates are pushing for a “just cause” ordinance to stop this phenomenon.

“It’s displacement on a massive scale,” Matt Nickell, an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, told Radio Boston. “Tenants are, more and more, seeing this as a threat to their very livelihood, their housing, their life. Because rents are rising so rapidly that no mortals can pay them.”

The second part outlines landlord’s opposition to a just cause ordinance, which they characterize as “de-facto rent control.” The third takes a look at San Francisco’s housing ecosystem and how its stronger eviction laws factor in, while the fourth part asks what Boston can do to stop this troubling trend.

Notice something changing in your neighborhood? Let me know: [email protected], @KyleClauss.