If the University cannot obtain the Harvard Square MTA yards soon, it will be forced to construct two new Houses elsewhere in Cambridge, Edward Reynolds '15, Administrative vice-President, implied at a legislative hearing Wednesday.
"We must have these dormitories, whether on the yards or not," he told members of the Metropolitan Affairs Committee hearing arguments about the possible sale of the property. "If Harvard cannot obtain the yards, we will have to purchase other land."
The public hearing centered on House Bill No. 2173, a measure requiring the Metropolitan Transit Authority to sell the yards under limited conditions. The bill sets a minimum price of $2 million for the entire 12-acre property, or $4 per square foot if the land is divided.
Object to "Service Charges"
The University objected to a second requirement in the bill, which prohibits sale of the land to a tax-exempt institution unless "service charges in lieu of taxes" are paid for 99 years. "We are opposed to this in principle," Reynolds stated, "since it could endanger the University's tax-exempt status."
A representative from the MTA also opposed the measure, saying "it is unnecessary to have this type of legislation." The MTA has "no immediate plans to relocate" from its present location, he added.
If the Transit Authority does not move and the University is able to obtain the property, a "platform" might be constructed over the train-storage area and the new Houses built atop this. Reynolds pointed out that no definite plans had been made for the yard area, and that apartment buildings, a large garage, a bank, and offices might be constructed in addition to the Houses.
Reynolds Repeats Offer
Last February the University offered to purchase the yards for the market value plus an additional $1 million. Reynolds repeated this offer at the legislative hearing, and circulated a letter to the members of the committee outlining the University's proposals.
The Metropolitan Affairs Committee will probably present its final opinion on the bill within three weeks. At some point in the next week or so, the committee will hold an executive session to consider arguments on both sides and to weigh recommendations for the General Court.
John J. Campbell, co-sponsor of House Bill No. 2173, emphasized at the hearing that "common ground" between the University and the MTA could be reached without damaging the city of Cambridge. John R. Sennott, father of the second sponsor, spoke about the "great drain on taxpayers" caused by the large amount of tax-exempt property in Cambridge.
"A Wonderful Industrial Center"
"We have no quarrel with the universities in the city," Sennott stated. He did object, however, to Harvard's freedom from many property taxes. Campbell pointed out that the Bennett St. yards represented the only major undeveloped land area in Cambridge, and felt that "a wonderful industrial center" might be constructed on the site.
To counter the argument, Reynolds noted that the University would construct taxable facilities on the yards, in addition to the tax-exempt Houses.