BOSTON — On the back side of Charlestown sit eight blocks of low-slung buildings from a different time.

Built in 1941, the Bunker Hill Housing Development has the signature look of old-school public housing, precise rows of drab brick buildings around stretches of open asphalt and grass courtyards that sprout rows of standing clotheslines.

The trim and neat setting, where children play football and ride scooters and elderly women lug home groceries, belies the Bunker Hill complex’s role as a testing ground for a radical reimagining of Boston’s approach to housing its poorest residents.

After decades of segregating low-income tenants in aging projects, Bunker Hill is the start of a new effort that will move them into trendy new apartments, side-by-side with wealthier neighbors willing to pay 10 times the rent for the unit next door.

With little money and a daunting list of repairs and renovations, the Boston Housing Authority wants to leverage the city’s hot real estate market by partnering with a private developer to build new homes for Bunker Hill’s 2,600 residents. In exchange for razing and replacing the complex’s 1,100 units, the developer will be allowed to build as many as 1,600 more apartments, at rents more often found in higher-end apartment buildings.

If successful, the authority intends to replicate the model at other public housing developments across the city. It’s already seeking proposals at smaller sites in Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and the South End.

“This is clearly the wave of the future,” Housing Authority administrator Bill McGonagle said. “If these large, older, urban public housing developments are going to survive, this is what we need to do.”

Four prominent real estate firms have submitted redevelopment plans to the BHA. Each would spend about $1 billion replacing Bunker Hill’s warren of low-rises and cul-de-sacs with open streets of bright, modern apartment buildings with a total of up to 2,700 units. Amenities in some proposals include new parks and other open spaces, stores and offices, and even a hockey rink.

One would extend the Freedom Trail through the site to mark the advance of British Redcoats during the battle that gave the project its name, inviting tourists through a place that today feels closed off to the outside.

One proposal suggests renting 700-square-foot units for $2,600 a month – comparable with those in the graceful brick townhouses of Charlestown’s tonier blocks. By contrast, tenants in the complex today, where the average household income is less than $15,000 a year, average $330 a month in rent.

“Those market-rate rents, quite frankly, will help subsidize my poorer families,” McGonagle said. “It’s pretty straightforward.”

Similar efforts to remake public housing are underway in New York and San Francisco. Chicago is 15 years into a $1.6 billion replacement of its legendary high-rise projects with new buildings that mix tenants of different incomes.

In Chicago – unlike the concentrated redevelopment that’s planned here – the new buildings were scattered across the city and included fewer low-income units in total than were demolished. That might have helped attract more market-rate tenants, Joseph said, but only 10 percent of the tenants who lived in the old towers moved into the new apartments.

“You’ve got these gorgeous new communities, but only a few get to come back to them,” Joseph said.

The Boston Housing Authority is promising that any current Bunker Hill resident who wants a spot in the new complex will get one.

The closest parallel to what the Boston Housing Authority wants to do might be in San Francisco, which also is partnering with private developers to rebuild aging public housing developments as mixed-income neighborhoods.

Like Boston, San Francisco has a strong housing market that can draw private money to the project, Vale said. And like Bunker Hill, the San Francisco projects have space to build new market-rate housing, which makes them more attractive to developers.

The city is part of the way through its first project, redoing San Francisco’s troubled Hunters Point complex into an 800-unit mixed-income development. And it’s working on more.

In Boston, the Housing Authority expects to pick a developer within the next month or so and begin construction within 18 months. The first phase could be done two years after work begins.

Whomever the Housing Authority selects to build the complex will also manage it and run the waiting list for low-income tenants. When it comes to enforcement of day-to-day rules, Kathy Brown, coordinator at the Boston Tenant Coalition, questioned whether longtime low-income tenants will be on equal footing with the wealthier newcomers.

“People can have a lot of assumptions when you see youth hang out, especially people of color,” Brown said. “How you manage things like that will be really important.”