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Center to Educate Students on Real Estate, Urban Action

11/13/14
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“The [Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action] will bring the best minds together with industry experts to determine how to make our communities better. What we’re going to do is give the rest of the world a model for how to transform the poorest areas into communities where people can lead viable lives.” -Joseph E. Corcoran (above at last week’s launch of the Corcoran Center) Photos by Rose Lincoln

By Sean Hennessey | Chronicle Staff

Published: Nov. 13, 2014

He is the real estate developer who pioneered the concept of mixed-used housing, giving hope and new beginnings to generations trapped in sub-standard public housing. Not only did Joseph E. Corcoran ’59 revitalize Dorchester’s crime-ridden Columbia Point Housing Project into Harbor Point, where low-income families live side-by-side with middle class families, he also created a national model that proved such developments could be successful — and profitable, too.

Now Boston College has created the Joseph E. Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action. Housed in the Carroll School of Management, the center is designed to educate and inspire the next generation of professionals to use real estate as a catalyst for turning struggling neighborhoods into stable, flourishing communities.  

“The center will bring the best minds together with industry experts to determine how to make our communities better,” says Corcoran, whose transformational gift through the University’s Light the World campaign helped establish the center.  “What we’re going to do is give the rest of the world a model for how to transform the poorest areas into communities where people can lead viable lives.”

Speaking at last week’s launch of the Corcoran Center, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, said the center is a reminder of the University’s mission of educating men and women to serve others, but also a testament to Corcoran’s vision, tenacity, and generosity.

“This center would not be established without Joe Corcoran’s vision,” said Fr. Leahy at the event, held Nov. 6 in Corcoran Commons (named for Corcoran’s late brother, John, a 1948 alumnus). “His idea of what we might do together at Boston College to help link up the enthusiasm, talent, and energy of students and faculty, and use those gifts to help the Greater Boston community around issues of housing, education, and jobs – that’s what this center will contribute.”

Echoing that sentiment, Carroll School Dean Andy Boynton says the opportunities the center provides may point undergraduates toward a career they might not have otherwise considered.

“This center is all about real estate and urban action,” says Boynton, “but to me, it’s also about connecting those issues to our undergraduates, providing them with the academic background, the engagement in the communities, the ability to take their careers in that direction, to serve others in Boston. This center opens up a whole new window of opportunity that doesn’t exist in the Carroll School of Management. It’s exciting. It’s a great business school that just got a little bit greater.”

The son of Irish immigrants who was born in Dorchester, Corcoran focused on transforming the urban landscape for those most marginalized in the nation’s poorest housing projects.  That ideal and lesson are captured in the course Corcoran inspired, Real Estate and Urban Action, which has been taught in the Carroll School for the past five years.

“We take students out to Harbor Point and show them the place, they talk to the people – the original people who were there 25 years ago and who are still there,” says Corcoran. “The students are blown away. It’s not your typical class. This is real life with real people, and when they see this, they get psyched. It’s really inspiring for us to teach the students; they come out of class and they want more.”

While students will get more through the Corcoran Center, its namesake hopes they follow his path as “agents for change.”
“It’s very much a BC thing,” says Corcoran. “We want to convert entire neighborhoods. The name wasn’t my idea – I was going to call it the name of the course, Real Estate and Urban Action, but the powers that be had other ideas. My wish was just to get this thing going.”