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Corcoran Center launches

December 2014

Corcoran Center to Build the Next Generation of Transformative Developers


By Judy Rakowsky

Left to right: University President William P. Leahy, S.J., Joseph E. Corcoran, and Carroll School of Management Dean Andy Boynton


Boston College celebrated the launch of the Joseph E. Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action last month at a luncheon honoring Corcoran ’59, H’09, who has made a career of reinventing urban neighborhoods.

The new academic center, housed in the Carroll School of Management, is dedicated to continuing Corcoran’s work transforming places like the once dangerous and dilapidated Columbia Point public housing project into Harbor Point on the Bay, a thriving mixed-income community in Boston.

Made possible by a transformative gift from Corcoran to the University’s Light the World campaign, the new center grew out of key tenets of Corcoran’s undergraduate course, Urban Real Estate: Creating Viable Urban Neighborhoods. It aims to educate and inspire the next generation of ethical real estate professionals to use real estate to help change places where the needs of vulnerable people are most severe.

Provost David Quigley said, “The center will provide a way for Boston College to commit more firmly to our core values: promoting human dignity and allowing people to thrive.”  

University President William P. Leahy, S.J., praised Corcoran’s vision, tenacity, and generosity, all steeped in Jesuit values, for creating the academic center. “The word that catches me is for,” Fr. Leahy said. “It’s for real estate and urban action, it’s for linkage, and it’s for others.”

Fr. Leahy further noted that “the center will link up the energy and enthusiasm of students and faculty and use those gifts to help Boston and the greater area.”

When Corcoran spoke, he quipped that after decades of facing rooms full of people divided over proposed developments, he was not accustomed to such a lovefest. But more of those contentious meetings must happen, he said.

“We’ve done great jobs turning around horrible public housing, keeping the people, and turning them into viable places. It’s still a sector that needs so much.”

The Joseph E. Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action will analyze whole neighborhoods and identify ways to turn them around, according to Corcoran.

The center will also provide opportunities for student engagement, community outreach, and speaking programs and forums as well as academic courses and support.

Carroll School Dean Andy Boynton said the center will “combine the best thinking from academia, industry, the public sector, and the community to conceive of how to build and sustain strong, healthy communities.”

Several distinguished leaders in urban planning and the real estate industry have already expressed interest in playing a role in programming the center, Boynton said. The center’s board comprises Bryce Blair, former chairman and CEO of AvalonBay Communities, Jack Connors ’63, H’07, founding partner of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc., Greg Giornell, president and COO of Purpose Built Communities, Paul Grogan, president of The Boston Foundation, and Rick Peiser, Michael D. Spear Professor of Real Estate Development at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.