University-Condo Developer Sued

University-Condo Developer Sued BOSTON, MA - A dozen former and current Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University professors are suing the developer a condominium complex for allegedly refusing to allow buyers to move in to units at 303 Third St in Cambridge, Mass.

The project, billed as the University Residential Communities at MIT, was originated by former MIT and Harvard faculty seeking an active-adult environment, according to a press release from the Boston office of the law firm Hanify & King PC, which is representing the plaintiffs.

The complaint, filed April 13 in Suffolk Superior Court, alleged the developer, Extell Development Co., failed to designate a closing date for the condos and refused to record the condominium master deed with the Middlesex South County Registery of Deeds, preventing the buyers from taking possession of the properties, according to Hanify & King. The defendant, 303 Third SPE LLC, is owned by Extell and an entity called ERQ, according to Hanify & King.

The Kendall Square property was marketed to former university faculty who want to remain close to their former college campuses. The developers also committed 22 units to the city of Cambridge for affordable housing. The complex was originally approved for 527 units in two buildings, the North and the South building. The North building contains rental units and is not part of the suit.

Jeffrey Upton, an attorney with Hanify & King who is representing the plaintiffs, said Extell agreed that if a certain number of units were sold by last fall then the South building would proceed as a co-op, which would create and empower a co-op board to legally restrict ownership to current and former MIT and Harvard faculty.

If the deadline was not met it would revert to a traditional condo building where anyone could buy a unit. Upton said although 38 people signed purchase and sales agreements, it was not enough to proceed with co-op plans, but the buyers were still entitled to a unit in the building under the P&S agreement.

However, the developer has prevented people from closing on the purchase of their units and is now discussing plans with the Cambridge Planning Board to convert the South building into rentals, according to Upton.

"What the developer has done has really gone dark with the buyers, " said Upton.

The developer filed plans with the city of Cambridge indicating the South building would be converted to rentals, according to Lester Barber, director of land use and zoning for the Cambridge Community Development Department.

"All indications is the units in the South building will be rental," said Barber. "My understanding is there hasn't been a final decision yet."

Plaintiff Jane Stabile says that she and her husband and the other buyers have been left in limbo, according to the press release.

"This was our dream to live in an ideal place near MIT where my husband and I met. We wanted to return to city living after raising a family in the suburbs, and now we are angry that the developers are breaking their promises to us," said Stabile in a statement.

In a Boston Business Journal story from August of 2006, the co-op idea was spearheaded by former MIT president Paul Gray, who wanted to create one of a growing number of university-affiliated retirement communities.

The plaintiffs put deposits of between $60,000 and $200,000 for each unit. Stabile said in a statement that she and her husband sold their family home and moved into an apartment, they thought, on a temporary basis. However, it has been months since they have had any communication with the developer except to pay an additional deposit last November.

"The developers are trying to get out of their contract. It's not fair and we intend to put up a good fight," said Stabile in a statement. "We just want to move into our new home."
Source: Boston Business Journal

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