FAS Pudding Deal Proves Far From Hasty

Lawsuit, negotiations slow building takeover

Harvard University's plan to take over the Hasty Pudding building has run into several unexpected glitches. Negotiations are taking longer than expected and the building's tenant has filed a lawsuit against its present owner, according to College officials.

Harvard announced last semester that the Institute of 1770, which currently owns the space, had agreed to transfer ownership of the Holyoke Street building to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). The space would then be used primarily as an undergraduate theater.

Although negotiations between Harvard and the graduate board of the Institute of 1770 have occurred since the two groups signed a letter of intent last spring, the two parties have not yet agreed on the terms that would finally make FAS the building's owner.

As a result, the building's traditional occupants will continue to use the space this year but their rights to the building in the future remain uncertain.

"We are in cooperative, congenial negotiations with the graduate board, but they are taking longer than I had hoped," said David P. Illingworth '71, associate dean of Harvard College, who is closely involved in the negotiations.

Institute and College representatives declined to discuss the issues delaying the agreement, but Illingworth said different interpretations of the preliminary letter's wording were a factor.

"Everybody understands, we want this to happen, but it's the little things," Illingworth said.

Illingworth and Associate Dean Georgene B. Herschbach are the College's representatives in the ongoing negotiations. Daniel A. Bress '01, is the liaison between Hasty Pudding Theatricals--part of the Institute of 1770--and Harvard, according to Herschbach.

Trouble Up Stairs

A lawsuit filed by Up Stairs at the Pudding, a restaurant that occupies the building's top floor, also complicates the College's plans to spend $10 million turning the building into a student theater.

The restaurant has filed suit against the institute, arguing that although the restaurant's lease expires in September, it has a right to extend its lease for another five years.

But the institute maintains that the restaurant does not have that right because it has been in arrears on its rent payments.

The establishment's owners, Mary-Catherine Deibel and Deborah Hughes say they have always paid their rent. Deibel and Hughes have hired an attorney and sent a letter to the community alleging that "Harvard University and the Hasty Pudding Institute are attempting to disregard the extension [of our lease]."

Illingworth said the College expected the restaurant to be out of the building by now.

"The restaurant is a problem," he said last week.

Through a deal made in 1986, Harvard owns the land on which the Pudding building sits. The institute was supposed to pay Harvard for use of the land.

But the institute was long in arrears to Harvard, and John L. Dotson III '82, acting president of the institute's graduate board, said last spring that the institute could not pay back Harvard, largely as a result of the restaurant's debt.

"Our ability to pay the rent to a large degree was affected by the restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant fell behind, and that in turn infringed upon our ability to pay Harvard," he said in April.

To resolve the latest dispute, Illingworth said that Scott Levitan, director of University and Commercial Real Estate, has been searching for a spot in Harvard Square that Up Stairs could move to. Levitan identifies himself as "the designated agent who acts for Harvard" in dealings the restaurant.

Hughes and Deibel said that they are amenable to the idea of moving their restaurant, if the new site meets all their needs.

"We would need a garden, and a space to do the weddings we do now. But that needs to be in an appropriate time frame, with appropriate support," Deibel said.

But Deibel said that they are taking reservations through 2001 and do not plan on leaving the Pudding building before then.

Illinworth said he hoped to use this academic year to plan FAS renovations for the building, start construction in the summer of 2001 and be done in time for fall 2002.

But he noted that the restaurant issue is independent of Harvard's negotiations with the institute about ownership of the building.

"Once the agreement is made [to transfer ownership], that doesn't do anything to Up Stairs," he said.

The Year At Hand

Despite the negotiating difficulties, Illingworth still believes FAS will be able to meet the renovation schedule he laid out last spring. Illingworth hopes construction will begin in the summer of 2001 and be finished by the fall of 2002.

He has put together a committee--scheduled to meet for the first time in mid-October--which will allocate the Pudding space and plan for renovations.

There are no students on the committee, but Illingworth said the committee will consult student groups which have an interest in the space.

In the meantime, the show will go on for the Pudding Theatricals, who annually stage a "no holds barred drag burlesque," as well as for the Radcliffe Pitches, Harvard Krokodiloes and Hasty Pudding social club, which also use the space.

The groups will stay put this year as the committee makes plans for the building's future use.

Perry Wilson '01, general manager of the Krokodiloes, said his group is considering several options for the 2001-2002 year--including renting a studio apartment or a conference room at the Charles Hotel.

"We need a dedicated space that we can always use, we need a place that brings us together," Wilson said. "For example, there are four Kroks here right now playing bridge."

Nicole M. Martin '01, president of the Pitches, said her group would most likely use College-owned space during the renovation year, rather than renting a space of its own.

After the renovation, Illingworth said the Theatricals, Pitches and Krokodiloes will still be able to use the renovated Pudding building.

"We want to be sensitive to history," he explained.

But the building will also be open to other undergraduate groups. And in the past, Illingworth has said he is not sure whether the College will prohibit the Theatricals from using the building if the drama troupe does not open up its all-male cast to women. Currently, women cannot perform in the show, although they participate in every other aspect of production. The future of the Pudding social club is even more uncertain. Illingworth said that the Pudding social club would have to change its membership selection process in order to use a College building, but said he has not been approached by William B. Decherd '01, president of the social club, to talk about staying in the building.

Decherd responded to inquiries about the club with a prepared statement.

"The officers have given much thought to what the club will do in future years. One option is to occupy new space. We are currently exploring a number of possibilities for our new home," Decherd said.

For the time being, Decherd said that the club will continue to hold lunches and club meetings at the club house.

Illingworth said once FAS owns the building, he would consider letting interested student groups use the space in the year before renovations begin.

He also noted, however, that he has gotten no requests to use the space.

Still, with a final agreement yet to be inked, Illingworth said getting ownership of the building and starting renovations are his top priorities.

"My prevailing thought is that I don't want to prevent the renovations from starting," Illingworth said.