Lesley University sells historic home at lower rate to become affordable housing under HRI deal

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The Charles Saunders House is set to become affordable housing after a sale to HRI of Lesley University. (Photo: Department of Community Development)

Lesley University has agreed to sell a historic building to 1627 Massachusetts Ave. to Homeowners Rehabilitation Inc., a not-for-profit builder of affordable housing in Cambridge. The nonprofit plans to purchase the property with funding from the city’s Affordable Housing Fund, renovate and expand it to create affordable housing, according to a Thursday email from the development department. city ​​community.

The university will sell the house for less than it could get from a for-profit bidder, doing something of a gift to the city, Lesley President Janet L. Steinmayer said.

“Knowing the magnitude of the need for affordable housing in Cambridge, Lesley University made a significant financial contribution by accepting a lower offer to help make this transaction possible,” Steinmayer said.

The house was built in 1862 between Harvard and Porter squares, in what is now known as the Baldwin neighborhood, and served as the residence of then-mayor Charles Hicks Saunders. Still known as Charles Saunders House, it was used as Lesley’s admissions and visitor services center – and then was commissioned as part of Lesley’s three-campus renovation plan announced in October.

Councilors voted quickly for the city manager to consider the feasibility of buying Lesley’s property, including several small Victorian houses in the Baldwin area, mostly on Mellen Street.

They are historic, beautiful – and ineffective for institutional purposes, said. But in this case, a building will be returned to its primary destination: housing. And for low-income residents, rather than the mayor.

“We think it’s a great result and it’s only fitting that this historic property, originally the home of Cambridge Mayor Charles H. Saunders, should be renovated and redeveloped to meet such a need. criticism in our community,” Steinmayer said.

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui entered talks with the university in the fall after hearing about its renovation plan, and she presented the political order to consider purchasing Lesley buildings for purposes ranging from facilities for kindergarten to green spaces and housing.

“Repurposing this historic building into an ideal location for affordable housing is the exact outcome we were hoping for,” Siddiqui said. “We must continue to be creative in finding opportunities to provide more affordable housing in Cambridge, and this purchase is another step in the right direction.”

HRI has been providing affordable housing in Cambridge since 1972; several of his projects have reused historic buildings. The nonprofit will begin planning for the development of the property over the coming month, including hosting community meetings and working with city staff, executive director Peter Daly said.

The purchase has not been finalized, according to the Community Development Department.

The office building 815 Somerville Avenuenext to the Porter Square Galleria mall, was also marketed by Lesley.FacebookTwitter
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