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The University recently signed a deal to purchase a site in a commercial sector of Brighton, and has reportedly expressed interest in pursuing a second property in the same neighborhood.
On June 26, Harvard officials closed a deal to purchase the site of the corporate offices of the Bickford’s Family Restaurants, a chain of approximately 60 diners across New England. The University has also expressed interest in purchasing the Algonquin Gas Company’s offices in the same neighborhood, according to someone familiar with Harvard’s acquisition plans. Officials at Harvard and the gas company declined comment.
According to Bickford’s Vice President Kevin Lynch, the company intends to maintain its headquarters on that site for the near future and has signed a lease agreement with the University. He declined to specify how long the lease will run.
“We have no intention of leaving right away,” Lynch said.
Bickford’s is owned by the publicly-traded ELXSI Company, which has had experienced a drastic fall in stock price over the past few years, from a peak value of $15 a share in 2000 to lows in the last several months of around $3.
Lynch emphasized that Bickford’s sale of the site would allow them to “generate some cash,” which they will reinvest into their restaurants.
The property will add acreage at the western end of Harvard’s vast holdings of formerly-industrial land in Allston and Brighton, the Boston neighborhoods directly across the river from Cambridge.
Top University officials are working toward a decision on plans for a second campus on the other side of the Charles. The two main scenarios for the land involve either creating a science campus with possible tie-ins to commercial biotech companies or a cluster of graduate schools, anchored by the law school.
New housing units will be a part of the development only, plan officials have said.
Harvard has also committed to making major improvements to the neighborhood, and over the past two years neighbors and University officials have met to hammer out a master plan for the area.
In June, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced City Hall’s take on what amenities and considerations for the neighborhood the North Allston Strategic Master Plan should involve, with ideas ranging from parks to a new commuter rail station to a new school.
Kathy A. Spiegelman, the University’s top planner and the director of the Allston Initiative, said that the eventual plans for the Bickford’s site could incorporate some of the goals of the master plan.
“The North Allston Strategic Plan has suggested that the area along [Soldier’s Field] Road where Bickford’s is located has the potential to better connect the neighborhood to the river and perhaps include some housing if and when redeveloped,” Spiegelman said. “I would expect future Harvard development plans to be consistent with those objectives.”
—LAUREN R. DORGAN
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