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Mass. Historical Commission Accepts Pact on Buildings

The Massachusetts Historical Commission agreed yesterday to postpone resolution of a two-year-old controversy over dozens of Harvard-owned buildings in return for the University's offer to establish a "preservation planning office."

The postponement allows Harvard one year to study about 80 buildings that Cambridge officials havbe attempted to include--over the University's objections--in the National Register of Historic Places.

Harvard officials had blocked the classification effort because, they said, regulations governing buildings designated as historical could "severely" hamper future construction by the University.

The compromise plan, reached Monday after a long series of negotiations between Harvard and Cambridge officials, also allows the University to sidestep a direct confrontation with the city over the contested buildings, which include Eliot, Winthrop, and Lowell House. Old Quincy and Old Leverett as well as the William James House on Irving St. and the Sparks house on Kirkland St.

"It's a very positive step from all points of view," Charles M. Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, said yesterday of the compromise.

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Sullivan charged last month that the Harvard buildings may not be adequately preserved because University officials had "no way of evaluating" them.

Harvard's new planning office, with a $40,000 budget, will study the historical significance of the contested buildings for a year. The state historical commission will then make a final recommendation to federal officials on the proposed inclusion of the Harvard properties in the national historical record.

Such a classification is intended to prevent federal funds used in construction from having an adverse impact on buildings, according to local officials.

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