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Hong Kong billionaire investor Gerald L. Chan has purchased the former Harvard Square Theater, adding to the more than $100 million real estate portfolio he now owns in the Square.
Chan’s purchase of the Church Street building follows a year in which his investments have reshaped the landscape of the Harvard community—having pledged the largest single donation in Harvard’s history of $350 million to the Harvard School of Public Health in September of last year and systematically buying up several other properties around the Square.
Cambridge real estate firm Carpenter & Company, Inc. sold the old Harvard Square Theater building to Chan for $17.5 million, according to the Massachusetts Registry of Deeds. The real estate firm, headed by Richard L. Friedman, acquired the Harvard Square Theater for $6.5 million when it closed in 2012. Friedman was reached on Wednesday but declined to comment.
In 2013, actor Casey Affleck reportedly explored the prospect of buying and re-opening the Harvard Square Theater that he and his brother Ben Affleck, both native Cantabrigians, once attended. However, the deal never went through.
Real estate is not a new endeavor for Chan, who works with his brother Ronnie C. Chan as principals at Hang Lung Properties. The company is one of the largest real estate companies in Hong Kong, with an estimated value of roughly $3 billion, and the brothers are ranked 24th on Forbes magazine’s “Hong Kong’s 50 Richest” list.
Chan’s other holdings in Harvard Square include property from 18 to 28 JFK St., which covers UNO’s and Papyrus. He has also acquired property in Winthrop Square, including Grendel’s Den and the former restaurant Upstairs on the Square.
While some tenants have retained their space, others have left after Chan acquired their properties. These include 39 JFK Street, which previously housed Leo’s Place Diner and the American Express office, both of which closed after the transfer of ownership. Tamarind Bay, an Indian bistro located at 75 Winthrop St., closed down when its rent doubled after Chan acquired the property.
—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mariel_klein.
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