January 13, 2004
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Church to sell estate where accused priests once lived
Milton mansion sits on 12.3-acre site
By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff, 9/2/2003
A 12.3-acre estate in Milton that once housed priests accused of child abuse is on the market.
Known as Our Lady's Hall at 287 Highland St., it features a brick mansion built around 1920 that has been described as being in the "Georgian revival" style. Designed as a private single-family residence, the building was later divided into three sections: the main house, a guest wing, and a servants wing. Between them, the main house and the guest wing have a dozen fireplaces.
The estate is being offered for sale by Jack Conway & Co. A brochure prepared by Conway said: "There is no established marketing price for this property. Persons interested in making an offer or other expressions of interest to purchase are advised to perform the necessary due diligence."
The town of Milton has assessed the value of the property at $2.206 million, said Jeffrey d'Ambly, Milton's chief appraiser.
The Archdiocese of Boston is now selling some real estate as part of an effort to raise money for a proposed $65 million settlement it has offered to victims of clergy sexual abuse; the sale of Our Lady's Hall is not part of that effort, said the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
In 2001, the archdiocese sold the estate for $1.9 million to the Archdiocese of Boston Clergy Benefit Trust, according to Milton records.
The benefit trust is one of four funds that seek to cover the retirement and medical needs of priests, Coyne said. When the benefit trust acquired the estate, one idea briefly considered was using the mansion as a retirement home. Now it has decided to sell the place.
"The building is now vacant," Coyne said. "Rather than paying upkeep and maintenance costs on an empty building, it makes more sense to sell the hall and use the proceeds to add to the trust's capitalization."
Over the years, the building has served many purposes. It was once a school and later converted to institutional uses.
A prospective buyer, though, may be more interested in the land than the building. The land is an irregularly shaped parcel bounded by Highland Street to the east and a private right of way to the south, the sales brochure said. The building sits on the northern section of the parcel; the southern section is generally "wooded and unimproved," the brochure said.
The estate is located in what Milton calls a "residence A zone." In theory, a developer could carve up the roughly 12 acres of land into 40,000-square-foot parcels -- or parcels just under an acre -- for building single-family homes, provided each lot has a minimum street frontage of 150 feet and a minimum setback of 30 feet from the front and rear lot lines.
If a buyer wanted to develop the estate into something else, such as a condominium project, the buyer would have to apply for a variance from the town's zoning board, Milton building commissioner Steven Crawford said.
Chris Reidy can be reached at email@example.com.