Harvard Real Estate (HRE) last week opened a "tenant relocation" office in the Craigie Arms Apartment building on Mt. Auburn St.. angering tenant activists in the building who are trying to prevent University plans to empty the 65-unit building.
Harvard also sent tenants a letter informing them of the relocation office, despite instructions from city rent board officials to refrain from "mass communications" with residents of the building.
Tenants may picket outside the relocation office this morning and will continue their efforts to block the relocation attempt before the rent board, Meredith Scammell, a member of the Harvard Tenants Union, said yesterday.
The letter, sent by HRE tenant relations director Lorraine Wade, informs tenants they can obtain details of a "program of relocation benefits" at the relocation office, located in an empty apartment.
HRE president Sally Zeckhauser said Friday the letter did not violate the instructions of a rent board hearing examiner to refrain from mass communications to tenants pending a decision in the case. "We were just telling them the service existed," she said.
"I think it's better we tell them than to have rumors flying around," Zeckhauser said.
The rent board examiner, James Packer, was unavailable for comment.
Harvard announced plans early this summer to empty the brick building, across Mt. Auburn St. from the post office to allow for easy renovations. It promised to return the building to the rental housing market when the work was done, and guaranteed that tenants could return to their apartments, but warned that rents might be substantially higher because of the renovations.
To take the building off the market in order for the renovations to be done, Harvard must obtain a "removal permit" from Cambridge's Rent Control Board. A hearing on the request for the permit, originally set for last week, has been postponed until late October.
At least one tenant in the building has already taken advantage of Harvard's financial incentive to move out voluntarily. The relocation office, which will explain the incentive structure to other tenants, is being run by an outside firm, Madge DiNitt Associates.
Officials of the firm, which was hired by the University, were unavailable for comment.
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