Our History

For more than thirty years, FAR Group has focused on development projects that do not fit the conventional return and risk measures of most developers. From our initial redevelopment of a burned out multi-family building to a large adaptive reuse of vacant industrial buildings, we seek challenging opportunities that require thoughtful and creative solutions and offer the added possibility of making a useful contribution to the local community. Such added benefits might be voluntary inclusion of affordable units, or replacement of an underused or ill-used property with productive residential or commercial occupants.

FAR Group began developing housing in Cambridge in 1979 with Pearl River Condominiums, the transformation of three attached triple-deckers, the first condominium development in the now very popular Cambridgeport neighborhood.

Continuing the ongoing revitalization of a formerly elegant residential neighborhood, our Fort Washington housing development replaced a vacant machinery storage lot in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, with 16 new one- and two-family townhouses, and won the 1985 Excellence in New Construction Grand Prize of the Boston Society of Architects.

FAR was selected in 1981 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to build the initial housing at University Park, a 27-acre mixed-use office and residential project.

We continued our innovative approach in East Cambridge, an underdeveloped neighborhood bordering on the east campus of MIT. At Spring and Thorndike Condominiums, a 97-unit development, the FAR Group was the first developer to voluntarily sell a portion of the units at dramatically reduced prices to neighborhood residents; no city or state subsidies were obtained. In the development process we acquired land from Amtrak (then Conrail).

During the real estate downturn in the early 90s we focused on underused religious properties. For St. Peters Church in Central Square, Cambridge, in a unique land lease and profit sharing plan negotiated with the Episcopal Diocese, we renovated their Parish Hall into commercial office space. The shared revenue allowed the Church to continue its services to the Community. After 16 years, the Parish Hall was returned to the Church as their continuing revenue generator.

In conjunction with Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline, we developed plans for their 25,000 square foot historic Community Center Building to be converted into office space for Longwood Medical Area spin-off companies. Zoning and Historic Certification were successfully obtained.

As the economy strengthened in the early 2000s we returned to Kendall Square in Cambridge and bought the TRW factory, a 300,000 square foot industrial complex. Renaming it Worthington Place we created Cambridge’s largest residential, historic renovation: 186 units with indoor parking. MIT long-term leased 66 apartments for their junior faculty and graduate students. Worthington won the triple crown of housing awards: we received the Preservation Award from both the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Cambridge Historic Commission and the coveted Boston Society of Architects Housing Design Excellence Award.

Worthington Place was sold in December of 2005 to Archstone-Smith Trust, at the time the third largest apartment real estate investment trust (REIT) in the United States. It was taken over in 2007 by the private real estate builder-operator Tishman Speyer. Now called the Lofts at Kendall Square Apartments, it continues at near 100% occupancy.

Recently we collaborated with Harvard University and acquired the Weston Order of the Jesuits Real Estate portfolio of residences in Cambridge.

Who We Are

faceJoel Altstein, the founder and president of FAR, is responsible for new business development and acquisition, limited partner communication, legal and financial management, and strategic planning.

From 1978 to 1983 he was Director of Corporate Communications for NEC Electronics USA, an 850 million dollar electronics firm. He founded the FAR Group in 1979, and has devoted full time to development since leaving NEC. He served on the East Cambridge Rezoning Board, collaborating in the rezoning of the area for its current vibrant use.

He holds both a master’s degree (Iowa University) and a bachelor’s degree (City College of New York) in Electrical/Electronic Engineering.

Irving FischmanDr. Irving Fischman is a co-founder of the FAR Group. A licensed real estate broker, he is responsible for sales and broker supervision. Additional responsibilities include architect liaison and cash flow analysis. His technical background is ideally suited for the complex analysis of current and future projects. He has consulted with regional and national banks on their real estate strategies.

Dr. Fischman holds a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

George MetzgerGeorge Metzger, AIA, President of HMFH Architects Inc., is Principal Architect for many of HMFH’s major projects. In addition to FAR Group developments, he has been Principal-in-Charge of various residential, commercial and institutional projects in Cambridge, including several elderly and family housing projects and nearby in the heart of the Agazziz neighborhood for the Baldwin School. Mr. Metzger is widely regarded for his ability to work with civic and neighborhood groups to achieve outstanding designs.

He received the Boston Society of Architects Award for Design Excellence in Housing in 2000 for the FAR Group’s Worthington Place and in 1985 for the FAR Group’s Fort Washington housing. Mr. Metzger is past President of the Boston Society of Architects, Cambridge’s 2005 Business Person of the Year, and is active in community and professional boards and holds an A.B. degree (Architecture) from Princeton University and Master of Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.