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Harvard renovations will force some Cambridge apartment residents to relocate

Posted by Your Town  March 6, 2013 04:44 PM

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Residents living in two Harvard-owned apartment complexes in Cambridge will be forced to move out next year, Harvard University officials confirmed today.

The apartment space will be converted into “swing dorms,” or temporary housing for Harvard students while other dorms are undergoing renovations.

These two buildings are located at 20-20A Prescott St. and 22-24 Prescott St. in Cambridge, according to Harvard officials.

On Monday, the Cambridge City Council reviewed a letter from Michael Turk of 11 Ware St. “regarding loss of rental housing in Harvard Square and the adjacent neighborhood of
Mid-Cambridge,” according to minutes from the meeting.

In the letter, Turk expressed concern for the “substantial number of older, long-term tenants for whom these apartments constitute their permanent home.”

According to the minutes, the letter was referred to the University Relations Committee.

Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal wrote in a statement that the Prescott Street apartments house seven former rent control units. The university plans to help these tenants who are living on a fixed-income, he said.

“Under the swing housing program, each of the tenants of the seven former rent control units are being assisted with finding equivalent housing in another Harvard-owned facility at the same rent as they were paying previously,” Neal wrote. “In addition to helping these tenants find another unit in the Harvard University Housing portfolio, Harvard will also reimburse these tenants for moving-related expenses.”

Neal wrote that Harvard will also assist these tenants who wish to move to a property not owned by the university.

These tenants “will be assisted with locating housing in the private market, and will also be provided with financial assistance for moving-related and other expenses.”

Neal also wrote that the affected residents were notified in November 2012 that they must vacate the apartment by Jan. 31, 2014.

“All leases are for one year only and all leases expire on June 30, 2013,” Neal wrote.
“Residents may renew their leases, but only until January 31, 2014. Residents who renew their current leases in June, but wish to leave and terminate their lease before January 2014 will be permitted to do so. This will enable all residents to move at a time that is most convenient for them.”

Residents who are affiliated with the university will be given priority in selecting new apartments that are university-owned, Neal wrote.

This temporary housing is part of a larger “House renewal” initiative, according to an article in the Harvard Gazette. In the summer of 2012, Harvard announced plans to renew the University’s 12 undergraduate Houses.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith and Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds said the Dunster House would be the first full House to undergo renovations. Starting in June 2014, Dunster students will live in temporary housing for the 2014 to 2015 academic year.

Harvard is now renovating the older section of Quincy House and will begin partial renovation of Leverett House this summer, according to the Gazette article. Three Harvard-owned apartment complexes - Hampden Hall at 8 Plympton St., Fairfax Hall at 1306 Massachusetts Ave., and Ridgely Hall at 65 Mt. Auburn St.- are already being used as a swing space. reported in February that Harvard will also permanently close The Inn at Harvard in July, and convert the space into temporary student housing. That move is expected to result in significant layoffs.

Starting in July the college will spend approximately 7 to 8 months renovating the inn, said Niamh Dwyer, director of sales and marketing for Collegiate Hospitality, LLC, which is the company that manages the inn. Then for the next decade, the inn will be used as a swing dorm.

The house renovations will result in the creation of nearly 3,600 construction jobs, the Gazette reported. Permitting fees alone are expected to generate $10 million for the city of Cambridge.

“We’re pleased that the renewal of Harvard’s undergraduate Houses will not only preserve and extend an indelible part of a Harvard College education, but that in doing so, we will help boost the local and regional economy by fostering new jobs and significant permitting revenues for the city,” Christine Heenan, vice president of Government, Community & Public Affairs told the Gazette at the time of the announcement.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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