After defaulting on about $160,000 in tax and utility payments owed to Harvard and the City of Cambridge, the Hasty Pudding Club is close to finalizing a deal in which Harvard would buy the club's Holyoke St. headquarters, Harvard and Pudding officials confirmed yesterday.
"It's fair to say that both sides are negotiating in good faith and that we're close to a deal," said attorney Kerry R. Lyne '52, a Pudding alumnus who is negotiating with the University.
"We're hopeful that we've come close to a resolution," said Sally Zeckhauser, president of Harvard Real Estate, Inc., the University's property holding company.
The Crimson reported on Tuesday that the social club which owns the property used by two separate organizations, The Hasty Pudding Theatricals and Upstairs at the Pudding, a gourmet restaurant, was delinquent on about $135,000 in property and utility taxes accumulated since 1982.
Pudding officials added yesterday that the club is years late on payments of about $25,000 in utility costs to Harvard. The officials said the club has also defaulted on mortgage payments, but refused to specify how much.
Contrary to reports in Boston and New York media, city officials said yesterday that at this time they have no intention of foreclosing on the club for the delinquent payments.
Zeckhauser and Lyne refused to comment on the amount the University would pay for the building, which the city values at $1,090,200, or on the length of the lease the University would give the club. But according to one source, the potential deal would give the Pudding, the nation's oldest college club, a 99-year lease and about $1 million in exchange for the clubhouse.
"What we're trying to do is help [the Pudding] get over a rough time and help put the organization on firm financial ground," Zeckhauser said. She said that the University is interested in the property because of its location in the center of Harvard territory.
If such an agreement were reached, the activities of the Pudding Theatrical Company would remain unaltered, University and club officials said. "The substance of the club's activities is not at issue," Zeckhauser said.
Nor would the potential deal directly affect the future of Upstairs at the Pudding, said Robert W. Emmons '52, the president of the club's graduate board. He said that the restaurant's lease will expire in December, and may or may not be renewed.
Zeckhauser said that the main problem preventing consummation of the deal was notifying and gaining the approval of the Pudding's trustees, graduate advisors and studentmembers.
The time necessary to secure the approval fromthe Pudding "is the nature of the beast,"Zeckhauser said. "It's a matter of touching allthe bases," she said.
"I don't see any major obstacles at all at thethe present time," Lyne said. Pudding and Harvardofficials said they hope to close out the deal bythe time of University's 350th anniversarycelebration in early September.
Despite the potential closing of the deal withHarvard, Emmons said that the club is exploringother options, such as having Pudding alumni buythe building, or taking out a new mortgage on theproperty.
Cambridge almost never forecloses on a buildingunless the taxes owed on it exceed the property'sworth, said Philip Cyr, a city financial official.The club's debt of $135,000 to the city totalsonly a fraction of the building's $1 millionvalue.
And even if the taxes the Pudding owed weregreater than the clubhouse's worth, the earliestthe city could foreclose would on the buildingwould be a year from now, Cyr said.
"There isn't any imminent danger" offoreclosure, Emmons said. "The city knows it willget its money, and they're not about to put us outof business," he said.
Besides real estate tax the city will collect,the Pudding also owes money to the University forsteam heat and to a bank for mortgage payments onwhich it has fallen behind.
Emmons said the club owes the University aboutthe same amount it did in 1981, when the Puddingtook out mortgages totalling about $125,000 tohelp pay off debts. In that year, the club owedthe University $25,000 for its heating, telephoneand maintenance services. That amount was said tobe highly unusual for a student organization toowe Harvard.
In addition, the club has failed to meetmortgage payments. Neither Emmons nor Lyne wouldcomment on the amount of the Pudding's mortgagedebts.
In order to raise long term funds for thePudding, Emmons said he planned to solicit alumnicontributions for the centennial of the Pudding'sresidence in its Holyoke St. headquarters in 1988.Emmons said he wanted to use the potentialcontributions to make capital improvements in theclubhouse.
Such improvements, he said, would make thePudding's theater a more attractive locale foroutside theater troupes to play and would thusgenerate income for the financially beleagueredclub.