Harvard on Friday sold four houses along Wendell and Mellon streets to Lesley College, raising fears among neighbors that the homes, currently used for open housing, might be converted to office space.
Deeds on file at the Middlesex County Courthouse showed that Lesley paid approximately $375,000 for the four properties, one of which is currently vacant.
"We know that Lesley has been in the business of accumulating contiguous properties. I would not be at all surprised to see them continue removing that land from the housing market," City Councilor Mary Ellen Preusser said Friday.
Lesley officials, including the treasurer John Tucker, refused to comment on the purchase. James Blake, public relations director, was unavailable for comment.
Let's Make A Deal
The properties were promised to Lesley in an agreement several years ago, Sally Zeckhauser, president of Harvard Real Estate Inc., said Friday. "We just felt we had to live up to that deal," she added.
Zeckhauser refused to identify the terms of the agreement.
Preusser charged Harvard and Lesley with collusion, adding "when we went through the downzoning process there, there was definite cooperation between Lesley and Harvard. I'm sure they made some sort of swap."
Between six and eight tenants occupy the buildings now, Zeckhauser said.
A city ordinance which the City Council will pass in the next two months may prevent Lesley from converting the properties to office, classroom or institutional housing use.
The ordinance, which the council last summer ordered the city development office to draft, will restrict institutional expansion in the city.
"That neighborhood has stabilized with young families. Lesley is continuing the patterns of destroying the city's neighborhoods through expansion," Preusser said.
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