By Charlie Breitrose
When the Mount Auburn Cemetery announced it will be seeking offers to purchase six acres of land in Watertown it sparked a slew of interest, including one public/private partnership.
The property sits adjacent to what’s become a hot destination for life sciences companies. One of the bidders, however, is not a business but a nearby prep school which seeks to put together a public/private partnership.
The original asking price for the property on Grove Street was $25 million. Town Council President Mark Sideris said he has heard that the figure would likely be significantly higher. The land is currently being used as a parking lot and is a former cement plant. There is also a historic house on the site.
Buckingham Brown & Nichols School announced at a Town Council meeting in November that it plans to bid on the property with the intention to build playing fields and a small field house on the land. BB&N would also enter an agreement with the town in an effort to make the bid more appealing to the cemetery’s Board of Trustees, which makes the ultimate decision.
BB&N Head of School Jennifer Price acknowledged that it will be hard to compete with corporate bidders.
“We will not be competitive with a biotech equity,” said Price. “Hopefully we can demonstrate this is a win-win situation, and hopefully the cemetery will see it as a win.”
Under the proposal, Watertown residents would be able to use the fields on weekday evenings, on weekends, and during the summer. BB&N would have use of the Filippello Park fields in the hours right after school, as well as two weeks in August and during the school’s week-long March break.
David Barnett, President and CEO of Mount Auburn Cemetery, said there are many considerations that must be made by the trustees when making the decision. He stressed that they must look at what works best for the cemetery.
“We appreciate the interest from BB&N in our property on Grove Street. We can also appreciate the public/private partnership. There are many factors that are included in a sale of this magnitude. Some, but not all, were voiced (at the Town Council meeting),” Barnett said. “The Cemetery’s Board of Trustees has very long-term objectives that we are considering, including a long-term ground lease instead of an outright sale. We will do what’s best for the future vision of our institution and at the same time hope it works for the Town and the neighborhood.”
Councilors indicated that they would not support putting a large office building on the site, because Grove Street and surrounding roadways already have significant traffic.
“We just finished election season and some things we heard were slow development and do something about traffic,” said Councilor Anthony Donato.