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After almost a year of negotiations, Harvard and a Roxbury non-profit development organization have nearly reached an agreement that would allow the organization to develop an 8.9 acre site now owned by the Medical School. University officials said yesterday.
Kevin A. McCluskey, Harvard's director of community relations, said yesterday that his office is currently trying to schedule a final meeting between Harvard and the Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS).
"We have been asking for a meeting," McCluskey said, "Hopefully we can bring this issue to a closure."
NHS is a non-profit organization that gives low-interest housing loans to Mission Hill residents and facilitates development of low-income housing in the area.
Harvard hopes it can reach a two-year option agreement with NHS. Under such an arrangement, NHS would have two years to find a developer to convert the land--called the "ledge site"--into housing, probably for low-income residents. If that search were successful, Harvard would officially sell the land at "an agreed upon price," McCluskey said.
Once a quarry, the ledge site is now divided into an "upper" and a "lower" half. The upper half is still undeveloped, while the lower half is now home to several stores--including a bank, a pharmacy and a dry cleaners.
McCluskey said the Medical School had decided early last year not to develop the ledge site for their own purposes. So to make "whatever was developed acceptable to the community at large," Harvard consulted local officials, who then referred Harvard to NHS, McCluskey said.
But Harvard's decision to negotiate with NHS drew criticism from a few Mission Hill residents.
Kathryn J. Brookins, a member of the the Mission Hill Neighborhood Association, says Harvard only agreed to sell the land because it wanted city officials to allow the Medical School to develop another Roxbury property. Harvard wants to build a research facility for the Medical School on that property, which is located on Longwood Ave.
Neighborhood Association members contend that Harvard merely wanted to curry favor with KellyFarquarson, who heads both the NHS and aquasi-governmental body that advises the city onzoning decisions. By selling NHS theland--allegedly at an unusually low price--Harvardhoped Farquarson would support Harvard's bid todevelop the Longwood Ave. property, Brookins said.
June Howe, president of the NeighborhoodAssociation, wrote in a letter to HarvardPresident Derek C. Bok that, "The Mission Hillneighborhood is once again threatened by a largescale development, under the aegis of HarvardUniversity, with little prospect that ourlegitimate concerns will be respected by thecurrent beneficiaries of Harvard's largeness."
Howe also said "we find it difficult tounderstand why we should be willing to support'subsidized commercial' property, when there areclearly developers eager to undertake unsubsidizeddevelopment of this valuable property."
Both McCluskey and Lillian F. Blacker, theMedical Area spokesperson, denied that there wasany such connection between the Ledge site and theLongwood Ave. project.
"I don't quite understand their allegations,"said McCluskey.
Blacker said that since the Longwood Ave. siteis already University property, no rezoning isnecessary.
Brookins and other opponents of the NHSagreements said they have at least "50 hard-core"supporters. In last year's NHS election, however,the current directors--who have pursued theagreement with Harvard--won reelection easily.
Opponents of the agreement charged that was theresult of voter fraud
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