Differing Appraisals


Six months of peace and quiet between Harvard and the city may come to a shrieking end in the next month over a sensitive issue--money.

After four years of talk, city officials confirmed last week that they plan finally to take by eminent domain a Harvard-owned field on Sacramento St. slated by the University for junior faculty housing.

Pending expected City Council approval of the move, the only question is how much the city will pay for the land. But to a city as financially strained as Cambridge, that question looms large.

One appraisal, done in 1978, set the value of the land at $480,000--the price the city will offer Harvard. But an appraisal done a year later showed the land was worth $750,000, and there is a chance that Harvard will go to court for that amount.

If the University does sue or if it asks for another appraisal, as a Harvard source said yesterday was possible, it may find itself in a battle of epic proportions.

City manager James L. Sullivan, Councilor David Sullivan, and others in the city have already announced that they will criticize University officials long and loud if they don't accept the $480,000 offer.

"Harvard is always take, take, take; this is a chance to show their concern for the city," the city manager said last week.

The actual negotiating will be done by Cambridge's Community Development Department. A source there said last week that Harvard can expect some "friendly persuasion. It won't help their public relations any to get in a battle with the city," the source said.

Harvard may not back down easily; "we have a responsibility to the people who give money to the University to see that we get at least the fair market value," Lewis A. Armistead, vice-president for government and community relations, said yesterday.

The city government, certainly as feisty as at any point in its history, seems ready for a fight. If the University wants to go into the corners too, it will be more than a minor quarrel.

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