The difference between this purchase and previous ones is that neighbors on Lane Park requested that BC purchase this house because it was an student-occupied, absentee-landlord house that in the last few years had gotten completely out-of-hand.
The university's pursuit of housing stock, however, worries other Brighton residents about BC's further encroachment into the residential neighborhood.
Hard Partying Ruining Life For Lane Park Residents
What might drive those Brighton residents to ask BC to buy the house?
According to several Lane Park residents contacted for this story, the 10-12 students who had been occupying the house in each of the last few years were hard partyers who regularly ruined the quality of life for the street. They received a full-house warning from the university, yet kept on with the parties on Wednesdays-Sundays. The students regularly climbed over and damaged a neighbors stone wall in order to pass through his yard on their shortcut to Greycliff Road. They drove the wrong-way on one-way Lane Park. It looked like some students were living, presumably against code, in both the basement and attic. And, despite all the Lane Park neighbors attempts, they say they couldn't get the property manager, Jamie Lebowitz, to control the students.
When this year's students moved out recently they not only dumped their furniture on the sidewalk but also left all the house's doors open. At least when a fire alarm inside went off last week the responders had no difficulty gaining access to the vacant house to shut it off.
Those Lane Park residents joined with the rest of the neighborhood earlier this year to push for BC to house 100% of its undergraduates in on-campus dormitories. Even if BC decided to build sufficient dormitories, however, it would be many years before the buildings would be complete -- and the Lane Park residents wanted to be able to sleep at night before then.
Early in 2008, the neighbors approached Thomas Keady, Jr., BC's Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs, asked that BC consider purchasing the house, and gave BC the owner's phone number. Their reason was that the house was so perpetually out-of-control that the neighbors were desperate for some relief. Ownership by BC -- along with faculty or graduate student tenants -- would be preferable to the student partying. BC subsequently made owner Craig Lebowitz an unsolicited offer on the house.
As the Lane Park residents see it, when BC agreed to purchase the house they were "actually providing a solution, not just generating the problem."
Not all Brighton residents see it that way. "The [neighborhood's] plan has always been to get the students onto campus," said Theresa Hynes of Hatherly Road. "BC is now getting the residents onto their campus by extending their campus to Lane Park and other stable neighborhoods."
The BC Task Force has, in the past, expressed similar opposition to BC's practice of purchasing residential housing stock in the area. The task force wrote a letter to BC in 2004 asking the university to stop:
Given the continuing housing crisis influencing the community, the Task Force is opposed to expansion that would result in losing residential housing stock. For example, we do not want a repetition of College Road and Hammond Street in Newton (where the college has purchased many homes) to occur on Lake Street and Foster Street in Brighton.The house at 26 Lane Park is the only one on the long, looped street that is absentee landlord and fully occupied by only students. While a number of other houses along the street house students, they are owner-occupied -- whose owners choose their tenants carefully, maintain order, and therefore don't cause problems with the other neighbors. Number 26 stuck out on a relatively quiet street. (Two houses at the intersection with Foster Street, having Foster Street addresses 249 and 251, are also among the list of 39 "problem houses" whose tenants' behavior has been extensively tracked by the Radnor Neighborhood Association.)
BC's new house on Lane Park has apparently been well-maintained by the owner prior to Craig Lebowitz, and the few years of student rentals appear not to have damaged the house substantially. The neighbors do not appear to have a firm commitment from the university to who will reside at the house, but they say they have been told that junior faculty or visiting faculty are likely, while graduate students are also possible.
The unfortunate outcome of BC's recent house purchase, however, is that this fall those 10-12 off-campus students will have to live somewhere else -- presumably along the street of some different Brighton residents.
Is BC's Pattern of House Buying Continuing Into Brighton?
BC has been steadily acquiring residential housing stock in Newton, particularly on College Road, Hammond Street, Old Mayflower Road, and Mayflower Road. The College Road properties are slated for demolition and re-development in the university's long-range plan of 2006-7.
Is this practice of buying residential housing stock now being replicated in Brighton?
In the last several years BC has purchased three houses at 18-24-30 Wade Street [30 at right] and conducted extensive renovations last summer in order to use the properties for faculty housing. The manager of 26 Lane Park also owns at least one house on Wade Street, which is listed as owner-occupied.
In 2004-6 they also acquired three 19th-century houses at 188-192-196 Foster Street -- all listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- which the university proposes to demolish (rather than preserve) to make way for Jesuit seminarian and theological graduate student housing. Lane Park is a side street off of Foster Street to the south of these properties.
More recently, BC appears to have won the bidding at around $68 million for the 16-story apartment building at 2000 Commonwealth Avenue, which contains approximately 190 apartment units.
With BC's most recent purchase on Lane Park, there appears to be no end in sight for their buying spree.
All of these purchases are remarkable in that, with the exception of two of the Foster Street houses, they are in addition to the $173.400001 million that BC spent in 2004-7 to purchase 65 acres (and many buildings on them) of the St. John's Seminary land from the Archdiocese of Boston. Last year BC took out a $177 million tax-exempt bond to fund part of the land purchase and the construction of academic buildings on the main campus. But BC also has to figure out a way to pay for all the new buildings and athletics facilities they want to build on the new land, which they estimate at $800 million in construction costs over the next 10 years.
These expenditures constitute a large fraction of their $1.75 billion endowment. BC looks to be maxing out their credit cards. A good question for the banking industry is whether or not all this spending might impact their bond rating thereby making their borrowing more expensive.